The increase in human lifespan—currently at an average of 80 years in developed countries—is often attributed to improved medical treatments and technologies, including innovations like the discovery of antibiotics and enhanced care for once-fatal occurrences like heart attacks. Yet advancements in medical technology also impact quality of life, particularly as people age. Many recent breakthroughs have improved seniors’ ability to remain healthy throughout the aging process, while simultaneously improving home care and challenges like overcrowded hospitals and remote populations.
The ways in which technology facilitates aging in place and patient care at home include wearable health devices, the concept of telehealth, and mobile apps. Wireless and wearable devices like Fitbits, smartwatches, and other technologies can provide useful data surrounding heart rate, calories, steps walked, sleep hygiene, and stress experienced. While these devices provide information to patients, they also can be configured to automatically deliver data to physicians—who can more accurately monitor patient health and continually screen for potential risk factors or new health issues. Moreover, in addition to devices that specifically monitor health, there are now wearable devices that can remind patients to take pills or perform other necessary medical tasks. Some predict that by 2018 over 81 million Americans will use some form of wearable technology.
The technological breakthroughs in communication and connectedness have also made it possible to provide healthcare services to remote places and populations. In 2016, approximately 74% of employers offered a ‘telehealth’ option as part of their medical service benefits. Through these services, a simple video chat with a clinician serves as a bridge for patient recommendations for treatment or further care. Because those who live in remote areas cannot easily access doctors’ offices—reports indicate that the physician-to-patient ratio in rural areas is 39 per 100,000, whereas in urban areas it is 53 per 100,000—telehealth technologies allow patients to easily access quality healthcare.
Finally, the ability to easily and rapidly connect customers with workers through mobile apps helps the healthcare industry by providing on-demand services to patients in need. These services include visiting patients’ homes, helping to set up smart devices, delivering medical products and equipment, and assisting with routine tasks. Not only does the need for on-demand professional services foster and create an entirely new industry, but it also dramatically improves home patient care.
Because the constant breakthroughs in technology are consistently increasing the human lifespan, the quality of our lives gains even more importance. Wearable medical devices, telehealth, and app-enabled, on-demand services can collectively help enhance the quality of healthcare in the home.