Human beings are living longer than at any point in history. In fact, the average lifespan for people in developed countries is around 80 years. As a point of reference, life expectancy in the United States in the year 1900 was 47 years. This is quite a substantial increase in a little more than a century.
This increase in human lifespan can be attributed, in large part, to improved medical treatments and technologies. Innovations – such as the discovery of antibiotics and new procedures for treating heart attacks – have allowed people to live longer.
But advancements in medical technology are also impacting the quality of life people experience as they age. By helping people age in place rather than at a hospital or in nursing care, these breakthroughs are improving our ability to remain healthy into our elderly years. Additionally, technologies aimed at improving home care will help the healthcare industry deal with challenges such as overcrowded hospitals, remote populations, and treatment for the rising numbers of elderly people who have difficulty getting around.
Here is a closer look at how technology facilitates aging in place and patient care at home.
Wearable Healthcare Devices
New wearable devices can now provide insight into our health. For example, Fitbits, smartwatches, and other wearable technologies can provide data about heart rates, calories burned, steps walked, sleep acquired, and stress experienced. These devices can provide this information to patients but can also be configured to automatically deliver the data to a patient’s physician. Armed with this real-time data, physicians can now more accurately monitor patient health and continually screen for potential risk factors or new health issues.
In addition to devices that monitor health, there are also wearable devices that can remind patients to take their pills or perform other medical tasks. By 2018, some predict that over 81 million American adults will use some form of wearable technology. This is an incredibly high number which should have a positive impact on the quality of healthcare in the U.S.
Technological breakthroughs in communication are making it possible for many healthcare services to be provided remotely. Video chat applications such as Skype and FaceTime are giving patients the opportunity to speak to nurses and doctors through their computers or mobile devices.
In 2016, roughly 74% of employers offered a “telehealth” option as a part of their medical benefits in states where telehealth is legal. Through telehealth services, a quick video chat with a doctor or a nurse can help a person learn whether or not a rash, bruise, bump, or other visible symptom is serious. Online, doctors and nurses can make recommendations for treatment or further care.
Telehealth can be especially helpful for people who live in remote areas and cannot easily get to a doctor’s office. It has been reported that the physician-to-patient ratio in rural areas is 39 per 100,000 people, whereas in urban areas that number jumps to 53 per 100,000. Through telehealth technologies, access to quality healthcare in rural areas can be dramatically improved.
App-Enabled, On-Demand Services
The growth in on-demand and freelance workers in the United States is unprecedented and is enabled by the ability to quickly and easily connect customers with workers through mobile apps. Consider insurance inspection company, WeGoLook, which has a network of over 30,000 on-demand workers who can perform field services related to insurance.
These gig workers can help, (in fact, they are helping) the healthcare industry by providing on-demand services to patients in need. Such services include visiting patients’ homes, helping to set up smart devices, delivering medical products and equipment, assisting with routine tasks, etc. The need for on-demand professional services like these has created a whole new industry. It is also helping to dramatically improve at home patient care.
Breakthroughs in technology continue to increase the human lifespan. In fact, some scientists estimate the human lifespan could soon be pushed beyond 120 years. With more years to live, the quality of our lives, particularly in our later years, gains importance. Wearable medical devices, telehealth, and app-enabled, on-demand services can all help to improve the quality of healthcare at home.