As our population continues to age, the demand increases for more clinical services and medical laboratory tests that cater to the growing needs of senior citizens

Elderly patients represent the fastest growing healthcare demographic in America. Thus, it is no surprise that healthcare professional in the field of Elderly Care are interested in technologies that enable them to remotely monitor the senior citizens under their care.

Telehealth devices, for example, that monitor a patient’s condition and transmits reports/alerts to primary care doctors and clinical laboratories when biomarkers deviate from set parameters, are becoming frontline tools for ambulatory and home-health practices.

Even emergency departments (EDs) are adopting remote-healthcare, as Dark Daily reported in “Community Paramedicine Brings Emergency Care into Patients’ Homes, Could Increase Clinical Laboratory Specimens Collected in These Settings.”

Healthcare and the Aging Consumer

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), there are more than 108 million people in the United States over the age of 50. This figure includes over 76 million baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. The number of people over the age of 50 is expected to grow by 19 million over the next decade.

At the latest Aging 2.0 OPTIMIZE conference in San Francisco, Jaana Remes, PhD, economist and partner at the McKinsey Global Institute stated, “In healthcare, there is a clear shift in consumption, and its mainly from a consumer we don’t hear a lot about: the aging consumer. There are a lot of attitudes of stereotypes, and they are still less well known,” noted a MobiHealthNews article. “There is more equality, more diversity, they are more likely to be working later, more likely to be single, they are the most educated older generation yet, and they are much more likely to be tech savvy.”  

Remes added it is important that new technology—such as apps, remote-monitoring systems, and platforms for care teams—are designed with the understanding that seniors will use them. “We need to make things that are suitable, particularly for the 75 and older crowd, to customize their needs,” she stated. “Fewer younger people are taking care of their parents.”

Elderly Care is Four-Five Times More Costly

A report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) states that healthcare costs rise exponentially after a person reaches age 50. According to the report, annual healthcare costs for the elderly are four to five times higher than individuals in their teens.

“Life expectancy has changed dramatically in the US, but while people are living longer, they aren’t necessarily living healthier,” stated Bruce Chernof, MD, President and CEO, The SCAN Foundation, in the MobiHealthNews article. “Maybe they are living with higher function and longer, but they are living with more chronic diseases. Where could tech play a role?” The SCAN Foundation is an independent public charity dedicated to improving care for older adults.

Critical Need for Home Health Monitoring Tools

As America’s population ages, the demand for home healthcare services is escalating at significant rates. According to a report from Zion Market Research, the global market for home healthcare services was valued at $229 billion in 2015. The report also states that that number should reach $391 billion by 2021.

Because families are becoming smaller, and a higher percentage of older adults are single than in the past, there is a greater need for caregivers who provide in-home care. Approximately two thirds of persons receiving home healthcare obtain that care from unpaid relatives and friends.

“The need for technology-enabled caregivers and care support goes up,” noted Chernof in the MobiHealthNews article. “So, we have to look mainly at ‘what is the problem I am trying to solve?’”

Fujitsu Laboratories Limited and Fujitsu Ireland Ltd. ran the KIDUKU Project from 2013-2016. The research initiative was designed to “provide monitoring services and assisted independent living for senior citizens and patients who live in smart houses.” (Graphic copyright: Fujitsu Laboratories Limited.)

Since the largest group of healthcare consumers are seniors, it is crucial to create tools that improve their quality of life and the effectiveness of the healthcare they receive. These tools include monitoring services for both healthcare and home care providers.

“On the pure technology side, it’s simple things like a dashboard report that family members can access that indicate what sensors at home they can interact with, enabling them to track patterns at home, so we can have the family get together and talk, rather than having to bring someone in every few weeks or months and try to figure out the problem moving backwards,” stated Lily Sarafan in the MobiHealthNews article. Sarafan is President and CEO of Home Care Assistance in San Francisco.

According to Sarafan, a significant part of senior care and monitoring is creating technology that tracks patient health and includes a personalized approach to care.

“Collecting better data that we can share with our 10,000 referral partners around the country on what’s happening in that white space, what happens in between when someone sees their healthcare provider two or three times per year because of an emergency or a check-up, and now we’re potentially interacting with a patient 24/7 for months or even years,” she stated. “That’s what puts us in the best possible situation to share data across players in the ecosystem and prevent preventable hospital admissions.”

Clinical Laboratories Could Provide Services; Earn Revenue

It might seem like science fiction now, but there may come a day soon when chronic disease sufferers can opt to have sensors implanted that monitor their conditions 24/7 and collect data that gets transmitted automatically to primary care doctors and other healthcare professionals.

When that happens, some innovative medical laboratories will likely develop business models for monitoring remote devices and collecting revenue for providing the service. By combining the collected data from those devices with a patient’s lab test data, they could identify for medical professionals when interventions are needed for certain conditions.

—JP Schlingman

Related Information:

What the Senior and Aging Care Industry Wants from Digital Health Innovators

A Snapshot of Global Innovation in Aging and Senior Care

How to Help Your Elderly Patients Adapt to Healthcare Technology

Community Paramedicine Brings Emergency Care into Patients’ Homes, Could Increase Clinical Laboratory Specimens Collected in These Settings

From Micro-hospitals to Mobile ERs: New Models of Healthcare Create Challenges and Opportunities for Pathologists and Medical Laboratories