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How is smart tech helping to create longer, happier lives?
Smart technology has a role to play here, and it isn’t just about teaching your granny how to use an iPad to stave off loneliness – there are also significant technological advances that are keeping people happier and healthier for longer, and enabling cost and efficiency savings so healthcare providers can do more with less.
For example, big data is making a real difference in the fight against diabetes, which is one of the top four non-infectious diseases that together account for 68% of deaths world-wide each year. Hitachi and NHS Greater Manchester in the UK are working in close partnership to analyse patient data, understand demographic trends and create care programmes in order to prevent diabetes.
For the elderly that require full-time care and monitoring due to long-term conditions like Alzheimer’s, technology is helping to maintain their freedom. In the UK, dementia patients are being given wearable monitors as part of the NHS’s move to modernise care. These wearablesare capable of remote monitoring, transmitting data about patients’ wellbeing back to healthcare providers. Telehealth apps such as Doctor on Demand are even allowing people to FaceTime their doctors from afar for quick and direct consultations, saving waiting times and reducing costs. This enables the patient to stay in the comfort of their home, whilst reducing the need for unnecessary face-to-face interaction with a care provider.
Smart home monitoring systems are also helping the elderly maintain their independence, with sensors being fitted to appliances like fridges and kettles, monitoring movement and alerting healthcare providers if something goes wrong. Italy, which has one of the world’s oldest populations along with Japan, is developing the Living Safe Project in Bolzano, where almost 25% of the population is over 65. The project involves remote monitoring, improving the lives of the city’s elderly, while also achieving 30% cost savings for the healthcare system.
Access to digital resources in general has made patients more informed and able to manage their own wellbeing, with 1 in 20 Google searches now being health-related. Google recently announced a new symptom checker which it says provides medically accurate information to enable self-diagnosis.
Tech firms are also increasingly developing gadgets with functions such as larger buttons or extra-loud speakers to make it easier for elderly people to use them, and iPad apps specially developed for older users are starting to emerge, designed to connect millions of older people with healthcare services. There’s even an app capable of predicting heart attacks by using smartphone software to analyse changes in the user’s tone of voice.
Smart technology may not be able to make us bionic yet, but advances like these are creating better ways of looking after ourselves, helping people to remain independent longer in old age and reducing cost burdens on overwhelmed healthcare systems. Businesses investing and innovating in connected health may soon hold the answers to longer, healthier and happier lives.