Many technology industry and healthcare insiders believe cloud technology focused on home-based care for seniors is poised to become a multi-billion market in the near future as the cost of caring for the elderly continues to rise.
Consider this, almost one in five of today’s boomers have diabetes, 40 per cent are obese and more than half take prescription drugs for hypertension, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report also indicates that despite their ailments, the overall death rate of boomers has gone down over the last decade. This, however, presents the issue of providing care for them for longer periods. But many aging people want to avoid nursing homes and hospitals.
Care for the elderly is expected to cost US$319 billion in the United States alone this year, according to the market research firm The Freedonia Group.
The cost of a hospital stay in North America has also gone up. For example, latest statistics from the Kaiser State Health Facts indicate that the average per day cost of hospitalization in 2014 was from $1,791 to $2,289.
“Long-term care is very expensive, but healthcare professionals are finding out that many of the conditions seniors are suffering from can be managed from their home,” according to Greg Horne, healthcare lead of analytics software maker SAS Canada. “There are now many devices that are capable of monitoring patients’ vital signs and technology exists to transmit this data over the cloud.”
The trend, he said, is moving towards making remote monitoring unwieldy and easier for non-professionals to conduct. There are still many providers that cart heavy oxygen meters or blood glucose devices to a patient’s home. However, we are now increasingly seeing smaller monitors for a pulse, oxygen, blood glucose levels and blood pressure that are much smaller.
Technology and healthcare experts foresee growth in bio-sensing, sensor networks, robotics and telecommunications devices geared towards caring for the elderly. New consumer-focused wearables not only capable of monitoring heart rate and body temperature but also able to detect falls, are now in the market.
“If the patient has an acute situation, such as a myocardial infarction, we can use remote monitoring for transitional care,” according to Mark Caron, CEO of Geneia, a Harrisburg, PA-based healthcare data, and technology firm. “We can monitor the patient with a telemetry patch that sends data right to the provider’s office or hospital. If any of the measurements indicate deteriorating health, their detection triggers an alert to providers who can then deliver lifesaving interventions much earlier than they would otherwise.”
Patients can also use data provided by such monitors to modify their behavior. For instance, an at-home monitor can provide patients with congestive heart disease the information and incentive to stay away from salty snacks that can exacerbate water retention. Monitoring can help determine if heart palpitations are signaling a heart attack or just due to indigestion. It has also been estimated that the use of body sensors reduces the cost of hospital-borne infections by $12,000 per patient.
IDC Health Insights report based on the analyst firm’s 2015-2016 Healthcare Provider Technology Spend Survey indicates that “across all of the technologies examined in the survey, providers are taking advantage of more cloud implementations and leveraging mobile and analytics capabilities in the cloud.”
While 50 per cent of software spending growth is still directed toward on-premise investments, survey respondents reported that 18 per cent of new software spend is going into software as a service (SaaS) and 24 per cent is going into projects that leverage managed hosting by a third party.
Other surveys indicate that 83 per cent of IT healthcare organizations is using cloud services. The report shows that 67 per cent of healthcare organizations are running SaaS-based applications, with 15.9 per cent running on infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platforms and 2.4 per cent using platform-as-a-service (PaaS) applications.
Information flowing from various sensors, monitors will generate a gigantic amount of data that will require an approximate investment in infrastructures to handle the transmission, storage, and analysis of the data, according to Horne.
“All that data has to go somewhere and it can’t be done by hospitals alone,” he said. “So the cloud is where data will reside and where doctors can access patient information from.
He said cloud infrastructures will be vital in handling the storage, management, protection, sharing, and transmission of data. “Governments and healthcare organizations will need to invest in cloud infrastructures.”
The uses of cloud technologies in healthcare are still in its early days and among the key barriers are people’s attitudes towards technology. However, with the cost live-in senior care going up to as much as $6,000 a month and rising, there’s no doubt that families will adopt cloud technology if it can help reduce the cost.