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The role of technology and AI in transforming the elder care sector in India and abroad

It is estimated that in 2050, there will be more people over 60 in the world than those below 15, in India, seniors will comprise of 20% of the population in 2050, from just about 10% today.

Understanding the enormity of the statement comes out better when I say that seniors in India in 2050 will be 80% of the population of USA then. But the point that should make an impact is that the number of younger people to care for the elderly in 2050 will be half of what it’s today.

While life expectancy marches on, we can expect that theover 80 population will quadruple by 2050. Many of us reading this article will live to well over 90, and living till 100 will become the norm for our kids. We live in amazing times!

To answer what we have at our disposal to make elderly care better in a world that has fewer care givers, we have to look back into our past, and see what has helped mankind claw out of their not so favourable situation. The answer is the proliferation of science with technology.

Kai-Fu Lee, an alumnus of Mckinsey and Google, and a bestselling author on Tech/AI, has said that one of the few jobs that will survive the onslaught of AI is elderly care. But technology and AI can help in levering up the capabilities of care givers, and make them more efficient. Let’s look at the ways that this will happen.

  • Tech and AI will increase efficiency of the eldercare caregiver workforce with the quadrupling of the over 80 populations, the healthcare system will be overwhelmed. There will be a huge increase in the geriatric group of diseases – diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and many more. Inspite of a dramatic growth, there still will not enough healthcare workers – WHO predicts a shortfall of 10 million healthcare workers by 2030. Technology and AI have to be used to remove routine tasks, and bring better and consistent decision making to the care givers. For example, in a London care facility, in-room sensors are used to feed a central platform, which has drastically reduced the number of attendants required at night.

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  • Tech and AI will drive the transition from episodic to continuous healthcare we see people move towards wellness and chronic care management instead of episodic (and expensive) hospital admissions. Wearables, implants, and other health sensors will provide almost continuous diagnostics and monitoring. The huge volume of data will then need be assimilated and used for making micro decisions in lifestyle – such as medication changes, amount of exercise, and other benefits that would compound over time.
  • The quality and consistency of clinical decision will improve manifold the amount of data and decisions that the medical devices will throw up will be enormous, and in most cases the algorithm will be able to provide actionable. It’s only when the cost of making an error becomes high is when a medical practitioner intervenes. With AI, the nurse practitioner will be removed from undertaking routine tasks, and will be allowed to focus on his/her skills, which in turn will lead to a better quality of work and care.
  • Care givers can focus on care delivery, which is the part of eldercare where tech and AI will least impact Care delivery, which is actually the part where the care giver will be helping an elderly person to get up from bed, brush her teeth, comb her hair and then help with the toilet, is one part that tech will find difficult to touch. There could however be cultures in which care robots will have a huge role to play, especially in countries such as Japan, when the young to old ratio is skewed even now.
  • Communication will increase, and the family of the elderly person will be more in control Communication is key in elder care, where many stakeholders are involved. Family members including children & loved ones with their individual opinions and intentions, and the care provider team – nurses, attendants, doctors, physiotherapists, dementia experts and a myriad of practitioners. At the centre is the elderly person, with possibly an Alexa enabled device. Bringing all of these people together (which I call the ‘Circle of Care’) is absolutely essential, and this is made possible by mobile devices, IoT devices, and apps to help in communicating. When a person falls down today in Kolkata, there are smart SOS devices connected to our central platform which informs all the stakeholders on time.
  • Networked home connected to a medical hub the elderly will want to live in their homes, and not in care homes. However, with sensor-based ICU beds, connected ventilators and other devices, long term care will be available in people’s homes, but being monitored centrally by a clinical team.

Technology in Eldercare has become the norm now. A home care company, managing thousands of members in their homes cannot depend on paper-based files and excel. The proposition is based on CRM platforms, connected medical devices, sensors, wearables and data management – to ensure that the millions of elderly in India and around the globe lead a healthy and enriched life in their final years.

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