Perhaps, like me, you have recently had parents die, passing through the ignominies of the death process—loss of hearing, loss of sight, loss of mobility, and decreased cognitive power. Maybe you are in your late 50’s and your parents are in their early 80’s and you are considering how to maintain a high quality of life for them. You might even be someone in your 80’s thinking about how to improve the life of your children who are constantly worried about you.
The future of a quality existence for seniors is not about the stupendous achievements in artificial intelligence with respect to robotic surgery, virtual nursing assistants, clinical judgments, or administrative workflow as suggested in Bernard Marrs article on How Is AI Used In Healthcare. It is about those basic social constructs and safety measures that give us purpose, make us feel loved, provide confidence, and enhance our diminishing senses, and AI is one of many players that will play a critical role in improving all our lives.
AI is a broad category that includes many types of technology solutions. Those areas of AI that are impacting seniors the most are for enhanced vision and hearing, speech recognition, various types of health and wellness pattern recognition among others.
Other areas that will secure a senior’s health and freedom soon may include some AI but rely on advancements in health education and awareness, autonomous vehicles, senior services, battery technology, robotics, sensor technology, material science, big data, community design, remote healthcare, and crowds source community help. I predict that these technologies and processes working in concert, even with a doubling of our senior population, over the next 10 years will:
- Reduce senior fall related deaths by 80%
- Reduce negative drug interactions by 80%
- Reduce urinary tract infections and sepsis by 50%
- Increase aging in place by 50%
- Decrease the cost of emergency transport per year from $224 billion to $50 billion
- Reduce emergency room visits by seniors by 50%
- Reduce the cost of dementia care by more than 50%
Let’s look at the mechanics of how these technologies will play out in reducing falls and keep in mind that the same process is applicable to heart health, mental health, sepsis, and various diseases such as diabetes.
Falls among seniors are a major expense category with a current annual cost of more than $50 billion. Minimizing falls or diminishing their impact by just 20% over the next 5 years saves the economy $10 billion dollars a year and is completely doable with processes in place that include:
- Identification of frailty as a leading indicator of a fall resulting in a hip fracture.
- Identification of a change in behavior through continuous measurement such as distance walked, distance traveled from their bed, speed of travel, speed of rising from sitting, heart rate, oxygen efficiency, and gate analysis
- Use technology to measure status
- Use technology to provide immediate on-site care and resolution
The clear majority of all hip fractures occur in the frail. Identifying them allows us to concentrate our time and resources on those who will most benefit from our efforts.
Automated CGA analysis is at its heart a measurement and integration problem with known solutions. Identifying the frail is the first step towards providing protocols to limit their catastrophic risks while maintaining and even improving their health through nutrition, exercise, sleep, meditation, environmental safety, and exoskeletons.
Modifying the environment
Environmental design is a major factor in safety and livability. This is particularly true for seniors and the frail. Familiarity, ease of access, ease of use, and lack of small injuries and frustrations empowers frail seniors to be more active and either stabilize their condition or enhance their health.
Environmental safety requires that there be processes to ensure their effectiveness. This is especially true when emergencies occur like flooding, fire, and accidents. In these situations, access to doorways, readiness of drugs, and methods of escape and home entry are very important.
Deaths due to falls has risen 31% in the last 10 years. There are many reasons for the increase in mortality such as an older population who are more frail. It is obvious, however, that much more must be done to protect our frail. Protective Clothing is an excellent way minimize the number of fatalities directly due to falls. The frail do not have the level of bone density to absorb the forces that affect their bones during falls. Modern elastomeric materials used for extreme sports and built into fashionable senior clothing can distribute that force by up to 50% and still be comfortable.
Use technology to measure status
Technology has improved every market sector performance it has touched in the last 50 years and protecting frail seniors is no exception. Since 2014 El Camino Hospital in California has reduced their falls by 39% using predictive analytics. In their case, they are using data acquired in the healthcare setting. This same technique using real-time data collected from sensors in senior communities can easily be implemented to inform caregivers and stakeholders of a need for intervention to limit falls and other problems such as urinary tract infections. Measurement of the seniors and the environment using various types of sensors and GPS when measured in near real-time build an accurate picture of what characteristics predict negative life trends.
There is no lack of systems to notify emergency services in case of emergencies with respect to seniors. The problem with all the current systems is the prioritization of notification and the method by which they are employed. Current systems use a central dispatch system much like emergency services. These in turn use systems that distribute calls to various authorities and relations to achieve their desired goal. Unfortunately, seniors often feel very uncomfortable with the dispatch of services when they are not sure of the level of their need. They often feel uncomfortable with strangers. In fact, the most important response requirement is time and the second most important is familiarity. To achieve this end, result a stratified system is required that notifies neighbors, friends, physicians, and families and then notifies emergency services.
When all these systems are applied together reducing falls that result in hospitalization by 80% and saving Americans $40 billion annually is a target within reach in the next 10 years. More importantly, improving the entire health system through measurement, AI and the appropriate analytics is just on the horizon.
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