The future of care is digital

We are living longer than ever. The global life expectancy is increasing annually and is expected to be 77 by 2050 – compared to 67 in 2000. This is great news but creates a challenge for healthcare systems around the world. More and more people will face age-related conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's. On top of that, the younger population will need to care for a greater number of elderly people.

The traditional approach to care requires the elderly to make expensive and inconvenient visits to hospitals or clinics, and for home care teams to physically check up on them. That approach is becoming increasingly unsustainable, as there are simply too few carers and too little funding to provide all elderly people with the care they have traditionally relied on.

Technology Enabled Care (TEC) offers a cost-effective and innovative solution, as carers can monitor the health of service users remotely in a continuous and unobtrusive way. TEC can also use artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect medical conditions and predict accidents, based on sensors that monitor the user's behaviour, physical state and environment. Carers can be alerted automatically if a user is moving in an unusual or unstable way, which could indicate a stroke, disorientation, or malnutrition and can therefore be dispatched to the user's home before they have an accident, such as a fall.

The sensors can either be wearable or installed in the user's home to create "smart homes". They can monitor vital signs like blood pressure, respiration and heart rate. Chemical sensors can detect changes in the user's sweat, saliva or blood sugar, which could indicate a range of medical conditions that could otherwise go unnoticed for days or months.

Some TEC is already becoming commonplace, such as remote monitoring. By installing a camera like the Careium Visit in a service user’s home, for example in their bedroom, home care staff or an alarm operator have the possibility to check up on the user at night, without having to drive to their home and risking waking them up. This also allows carers to spend more time on valuable daytime social visits. For example, in the Swedish municipality of Uddevalla, remote monitoring has resulted in a 25% reduction in night-time carers, who now work day shifts instead.

The greatest benefit of these technological solutions is that they help the elderly become more independent. It is easier and less scary to live at home, stay physically active, and go outside when you know that someone will be alerted or come to your aid if you need help.

The main priorities to ensure the expansion of TEC is to make the technology easy to understand and unobtrusive. Surveys show that younger people are more open to the idea of being monitored by machines and assisted by robots, while the elderly remain more sceptical. Studies have found that people are much more likely to embrace TEC and see the advantages if they get a chance to actually try it. For example, a study by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions found that 95% of those who try night-time cameras prefer to continue using them. The most important factor, however, is making the technology safe, reliable and seamless, which is precisely what we're working hard to achieve at Careium.