The 'Senior Cyborgs' are Coming!

The Silver Tsunami of Baby Boomers hitting retirement by itself would be enough to worry the most well prepared healthcare system, however in the United States, rising healthcare delivery costs and little to no change in the number of professional caregivers is putting the system under never before seen pressures. Everyone is looking to provide more cost-effective ways to provide care and keep people independent, safe, happy and healthy at home, and that was the focus of a panel discussion at this week's Louisville Innovation Summit.
Senior Cyborgs & the Rise of Digital Health
The session discussed the evolution of disruptive digital health technology, a new force of digital caregivers and the entrepreneurs that are changing the way care is delivered. The audience learned about new technologies to deliver care to the elderly, to monitor and assess their condition, mood and well-being as indicators of onsetting medical conditions, and some of the technologies that will enable the elderly to stay in their homes rather than in much more expensive and often despised elderly residential care.

However with increased adoption of clinical alerting and other medical technologies being sent home with post-acute patients, combined with an ever-increasing number of across-the-shelf health monitoring and tracking systems filling homes, the bigger question, which unfortunately often goes unanswered, is how can this ever growing mass of medical devices be secured. The confidentiality, integrity and availability of medical systems and the protected health information that they produce needs to be secured in the home just as it would in a hospice or hospital. This lack of security confidence has in many cases slowed the adoption of technologies that enable patients to spend their twilight years in the comfort of their own homes. It appears then, that security is the primary key to unlocking the doors to what the elderly are asking for and what Medicare Administrators would prefer to fund.

One other key that appears to be required however, is the need to change healthcare payment models for both private and government funded programs such that providers can get paid for community-based care. The panel agreed that current payment and reimbursement models are hugely out of date and this is one of the reasons why the United States lags the rest of the developed world in its adoption of cheaper and more convenient telehealth and telemedicine.

Other areas of discussion focussed upon the need to improve the interoperability of digital health systems, such that meaningful data and meta-data can be better exchanged between providers with different EMRs, and other clinical information systems. We heard that the industry itself has made some strides towards this, but competitive business practices have failed to break down the proprietary data formats used by different HIT vendors. Government will probably need to take a bigger role in mandating common data formats so that meaningful use can be fully achieved.

Read more at TechRepublic and at grandCARE who also reported on the session.

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