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Can Digitization Democratize Healthcare?: Telemedicine and the Future of Aging

The population is growing older, and this graying of the United States is bringing with it a lot of difficult choices and a cascade of painful sacrifices. Everyday in America, another 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age. By 2030, nearly 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 years old or older. As the population grows older, younger generations find themselves torn between the responsibilities of caring for an aging parent and raising their own children.

As Generation X and maturing millennials struggle to balance their multiple roles as caregivers, baby boomers face their own battles. Declining health and decreasing physical independence often leave boomers with a difficult choice: Remain at home and risk possible illness or injury or leave the home they love to seek the full-time care they need. But does it have to be this way?

Aging in Place

For many boomers, the choice between remaining at home or relocating to an assisted living facility or the home of a full-time care provider, often a child or other relative, is really no choice at all. Few adult children of the baby boomer generation have the financial resources to give up their jobs or reduce their work hours enough to provide the round-the-clock care their parents require.

At the same time, the costs of home health services intended to augment family caregiving are prohibitive for many families. The lack of affordable alternatives to assisted living or nursing home care has compelled innumerable seniors to risk their health and safety.

Many would prefer to endeavor to care for themselves alone at home than to give up their sense of personal space and independence. The health repercussions of such a stark choice may be severe. Every 11 seconds in the United States, an elderly person seeks emergency care due to a fall; every 19 minutes, a senior in America dies as the result of a fall.

This is the dark side of the aging in place movement, but it doesn't have to be this way. Now, more than ever, wearable health technologies are making it possible for seniors to remain at home while protecting their health and safety.

Changing the Face of Healthcare

Wearable medical technologies are revolutionizing not only the way that medicine is practiced in America, but also the way that it is understood. Rather than seeking medical care primarily to prolong life and prevent debility, technology-based medicine has become a powerful tool for helping seniors preserve their autonomy.

Wearable and other mobile tech devices enable seniors to communicate nearly instantaneously with their healthcare providers via both audio and video connections without leaving the comforts of home. For frail seniors who face mobility challenges or cognitive impairments, the opportunity to consult in real time, face-to-face, with a care provider can, quite literally, save a life.

Telemedicine allows seniors to seek the care they need without having to arrange for transportation or risk a difficult commute to a doctor's office or clinic. Not only is this a physically safer option for frail seniors, but it also increases the likelihood of seniors' seeking care earlier and more often.

Tech as a Teaching Tool

As vital as this enriched access to healthcare providers is, wearable and mobile tech does much more. The ability of these technologies to provide data in real time on the patient's vital statistics, from heart rate and blood pressure, makes for a more empowered patient.

The aging process can be mysterious and frightening. Seniors may not always understand the changes that are happening in their bodies, and they may fail to recognize early warning signs until it is too late.

Digital monitors, however, can provide seniors with important information about their own health and how their lifestyle choices may be contributing to -- or detracting from -- their quality of life. Not only can wearable tech track lung and cardiac function, instantly relaying crucial information to the senior's physicians and family caregivers, but it can also track the patient's sleep quality or dietary habits.

Equipped with this important information, the patient, her caregivers, and her medical team can make more informed choices regarding not only her medical care but her at-home routine. Before the advent of this technology, patients were forced to undergo expensive testing in conditions that in no way resemble those of the patient's home environment.

With the technology, however, physicians have a wealth of affordable, highly functional tools to provide vast amounts of health data that truly do reflect the patient's physical condition, her body's responses to her life and living conditions, rather than the stressors of the clinic. The outcome is an enhanced quality of life and greater independence, including the independence to remain in the place of her own choosing, for as long as possible.

Posted by Magnolia at November 19, 2019 10:06 AM
Comment #450934

This is a good article, except for the title perhaps:

Can Digitization Democratize Healthcare?
The definition of Democratize is to make (something) accessible to everyone.
Everyone ALREADY has access to emergency healthcare (including illegal immigrants).

The problem is the solutions that most (if not all) Democrats running for POTUS are proposing, which include healthcare for illegal immigrants.

At any rate, for those that are really interested in care for the elderly, I can tell you where to find $274 Billion per year that is currently wasted due to near-open borders and abused asylum laws that Democrats refuse to eliminate (among other potential common-sense solutions, because Democrats have a despicable strategy that requires massive illegal immigration). And that does not even include the untold cost of crime by criminal non-citizens (such as 2,000 homicides per year).

That $274 Billion per year is a conservative estimate of what illegal immigration costs per year (that is $0.75 Billion per day) in net losses. That amounts to $274Billion/50 = $5.48 Billion per year. Just imagine what U.S. citizens could do with that. But, for some reason, Democrats want to give it to illegal immigrants!???
Why !!??
OHhhh, right … now we know why.

The irony of the Democrats’ despicable strategy is that it will all end very badly (like Venezuela, and other failed socialist countries).
And IF Democrats get control, and turn the U.S. into another failed socialist country, it is somewhat comforting to know that they will get what they deserve when the U.S. becomes another failed state, the grocery store shelves are empty, gasoline is scarce and very expensive, and widespread poverty becomes the norm.

Another $70 Billion in current Medicare fraud could also be put to a much better use (which is just another example of the federal government’s inability to adequately administer most (if not all) systems.

Of course, a $23 Trillion national debt makes all choices more difficult. The federal government collects $3.8 Trillion in revenues per year, and then borrows another $1+ Trillion, and has been doing that for decades. 25% of every tax dollar now goes to merely pay the interest on the national debt. Also, the $23 Trillion national debt now exceeds U.S. GDP, which is a very bad sign.

Also, we don’t need more taxes.
We don’t have a tax problem.
We have a spending problem.

Yet, Elizabeth Warren thinks her Medicare-for-All is a good idea, and she admits that it would cost $52 Trillion over ten years ($5.2 Trillion per year). Where’s that money going to come from? $5.2 Trillion per year for Medicare-for-all is $1.4 Trillion more the current federal revenues of $3.8 Trillion per year! Is Elizabeth Warren crazy, or very, VERY bad at math?

And then there are the Democrat candidates running for POTUS. They must be desperate, because they are all making all sort of crazy promises of all sorts of free stuff, open borders, sanctuary states, etc., etc., etc.!

Even Barack Obama isn’t far enough left for these Democrat candidates running for POTUS.

IF there are more moderate Democrats in Congress, where are their voices?

What happened to the Democrat party?
It appears to be working on their next new historical low in a long history of historical lows.

Posted by: d.a.n at November 19, 2019 4:57 PM
Comment #453105

Even Barack Obama isn’t far enough left for these Democrat candidates running for POTUS

Posted by: tamoor at February 2, 2020 6:29 PM
Comment #453128

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