The Future of Smart Home Care Monitoring Technologies for Patients and the Elderly

'Silver Tech' is an emerging term referring to the growing technology market for seniors. Studies show that devices such as smartphones, IoT devices, and wearables make their way into the older population’s everyday lives at the same rate as their much younger counterparts’. In particular, the demand for home care technologies is seeing rapid growth.
6 min read
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By Daniel Piekarz
Sr. Vice President, Healthcare & Life Sciences, USA
The Future of Smart Home Care Monitoring Technologies for Patients and the Elderly

According to the P&S Intelligence report, the global ‘smart’ home care market is forecast to go from $8.7 billion in 2019 to $96.2 billion in 2030. The number of older persons is projected to double to 1.5 billion by 2050. Furthermore, the WHO estimates there will be 2 billion people over the age of 60 by 2050, a population shift that will largely inform the increased emphasis on value-based care and home care technology.

As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the nation last year, the aging population found themselves disproportionately vulnerable to the virus’s impact, making traditional healthcare services less accessible due to heightened risk. Elderly patients or those suffering from chronic conditions are increasingly apprehensive of hospitals and medical centers, as their likelihood of contracting the virus within those spaces is perceivably higher than at home. Now, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and new innovations, home care technology is on the path to transforming the healthcare industry.

Exploring the Home Care Landscape

Understandably, home care technology represents an affordable alternative to other healthcare services, such as assisted living, nursing homes, and in-home patient care, which, for many families, makes critical healthcare accessible for their loved ones.

In many cases, home care technologies can effectively replace traditional healthcare. Telemedicine, specifically, has become increasingly popular over the last year, as individuals across generations are unable to access health practitioners in a conventional, in-person setting. To remedy this, along with previously understood issues such as wait times and high healthcare costs, telemedicine technologies facilitate the remote exchange of information, often via virtual mediums, between patients and physicians. Conducting appointments via the phone, a video call, or an app helps patients to reduce travel time, transportation costs, and the number of visits to a clinic.

Moreover, we understand that health-related concerns rarely adhere to a set schedule. Often, patients may require assistance outside of regular office hours, which is effectively solved by constant monitoring technology, such as wearables and smart home care devices. Advancements include fall and motion detection, medication management systems, smartwatches to track diabetes, smart socks that monitor skin temperature, sensors that gauge air quality, smart vests that make breathing easier, and heart rate monitors that alert emergency responders at the first sign of trouble.

In the realm of home care robotics, we observe AI-powered robotic technology’s continued innovation to perform healthcare providers’ tasks and aids effectively while learning and adapting based on patient behavior. Medical robots offer robust functionality, help answer patients’ medical questions, manage their medications, and connect them with appropriate healthcare professionals when needed.

AI-powered healthcare technology is specifically promising in early detection; intelligent platforms can assist in decision support and help recognize acute conditions in patients that may otherwise go unnoticed. The Medical Robotic System market was valued at USD 8.307 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 28.34 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 22.18 % over 2021 — 2026.

Although consumer perception around medical robots has, in the past, been largely apprehensive, there has been a positive shift over the last few years. As a primary selling point, patients recognize that these devices can reduce the number of visits they have to make to the ER or their primary care physician and can, in turn, save them money and time while still offering high-touch care.

Identifying Adoption Challenges

Modern home care technology promises a world of accessible innovation, but the path to wide-spread adoption is not without challenges. Understandably, the primary barrier to adoption across these platforms and devices is, often, usability. Before development, vendors must consider who the end-user is and how their experience with the device will be defined. When catering to the aging population and patients with chronic conditions, it is essential to ensure that they offer a user-friendly interface and design. Many users may suffer from a lack of dexterity, limited digital acumen, loss of vision, or cognitive decline, impacting their experience interacting with the device/system. To this effect, simplicity and functionality should be top of mind for any home care technology developer.

Data protection and analysis is another point of contention within this realm as users are increasingly concerned about the protections offered by data-centric devices. As medical devices upload and share data between users and medical professionals, developers must lay the foundation for securing data between parties.The perceived protection of patient data has a major impact on the reputation and subsequent adoption of home care technology providers as patient records are sensitive in nature.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Home Care Technology

Home care technology is not simply getting better, it is getting smarter. The concept of ‘smart’ devices is hardly novel as consumer homes are increasingly armed with various smart technology, including lighting control systems, smart thermostats, smart appliances, voice-activated assistants, and more. In fact, by 2022, an average smart house is expected to have around 500 smart devices, many of which will include a variety of telehealth devices. Moreover, experts predict that a third of all smart homes will be equipped with elements of health-related technology in five to ten years.

But the future of home care technology goes beyond the typical implementation and use of devices such as smartwatches, glucose monitors, alarm systems, and even medical robots. In ten years, home healthcare devices will not be viewed as an application but rather a fully integrated functionality within our homes and routines.

To this effect, health-related monitoring will be built into the very framework of our homes and applications using new-age sensors and enhanced interoperability. This would consist of constant data touch-points and non-invasive health checks throughout the day (i.e., in your bed, while in the shower, opening the fridge). To mitigate any concerns regarding 24/7 monitoring and related privacy questions, these metrics will be established and controlled by each user based on individual concerns and data preferences. Sensors will be primed to detect various symptoms, conditions, and any signs of ill health around your house. These devices can then automatically provide alerts to medical professionals to ensure all household members have access to the support they need. For patients recovering from a procedure or condition, data and vitals can finally be shared in a constant, unobtrusive fashion with their doctor.

The increasingly connected future of home care technology allows for the collection and upload of personal health data in a way that, previously, we have never experienced. This helps to inform a more proactive and holistic approach to population health and empowers a more personalized and intelligent development of healthcare routines and interventions.

Finally, healthcare is expanding beyond the walls of a hospital and local medical clinics — making home care more accessible, affordable, and more intelligent than ever before.

«To rescue the fallen is good, but ‘tis best to prevent other people from falling.»
― Joseph Malins
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