Our golden years in the silver economy and the use of eHealth

Posted on: 10.03.2017 Tags:

eHealth Week

“The costs of health and social care will rise substantially to about 9% of EU GDP in 2050”

Many studies in recent years showcase statistics about the average life expectancy and how it continues to increase. So how much has the average life expectancy grown when looking at a longer period? Shockingly, babies born in 1900 did not live past the age of 50 in average. Compare this with the current world leader Japan, which now has an average of 83 years.[1]

It has been estimated that the number of people age 65 or older is projected to grow from estimated 524 million in 2010 to nearly 1.5 billion in 2050 with most of the increase in developing countries.[2]

Some of the great improvements in life expectancy over the past century have been thanks to our progress in treating the major health threats of infectious and parasitic diseases that most commonly claimed the life of infants and children.

In a WHO publication “Global Health and Ageing” improvements to life expectancy has been described as “one of societies greatest achievements” but even though we have come a long way, it has also created a new set of challenges.

Can the potential burden on global health and economic costs be tackled with the help of eHealth? If so, how?

The non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) that commonly affect adults and older people as well as aging are some of the challenges that may potentially affect not only the burden on global health but also economic and societal costs.

In Europe, an estimation of the costs of health and social care will rise substantially to about 9% of EU GDP in 2050.[3]

Without Digital Health solutions in the future, the already at capacity health institutions will in my view most likely fail. There needs to be new, smart and cost effective products, solutions and services to cope with this macro change in demographics over the next 30 years.

One of the main problems with the ageing population almost tripling in size in the next 30-35 years is how the health institutions will be able to cope with this, an estimated 70% of the homes in the UK and 90% in Germany are not fit for independent living for the ageing population. Digital Health solutions are most likely a key component on reducing the amount of people having to spend too many years in institutions which not only impacts their quality of life but also puts a large strain on the cost side.

It has been presented and estimated that the introduction of ICT and telemedicine alone improves efficiency of health and care by 20%.[4]

The use of technology and digital solutions (apps, wearables, telecare, IOT etc.) and new innovative services can hopefully enable a larger portion of the ageing population to be able to live independently in their own homes for a longer time. Through digital health we can bring the user the empowerment to manage their own health and amplify people’s quality of life.

Breaking cross-border barriers and building partnerships for joint solutions and cultural change

Breaking cross-border barriers and building partnerships, collaborative work would be another key in order to encourage innovation, scaling, products and services and launch of businesses who wishes to take part in the health and well-being ecosystem.

The previous mentioned is of course not an easy task to achieve. The probability is high of having to revisit the implementation of perhaps new policies, interoperability, security questions and more. This will still be on the agenda for a long time. Perhaps if we look at it on the brighter side, it could inspire us to develop smarter and sustainable solutions as well as creating a friendly competitive industry for the EU market.

I personally wish to highlight how digital health can contribute to a cultural change. Many people still associate ageing with the loss of faculties, followed by the perception that once you reach a certain age, you reach your “expiry date” and therefore can longer contribute/serve our community.

 

With the help of digital health solutions it could open up the possibilities for the elderly to stay active longer, bring value to different areas with knowledge and experience  through many activities both voluntary work or payed.

Today Europeans over 65 years old have the spending capacity of over €3,000 billion, which means that they too have a large impact on the European economy.[5]

They are the golden nuggets to the silver economy.

eHealth Week Malta 10 -12 May 2017 gives you the opportunity to explore and discuss this important topic during the session “Ageing across borders: International cooperation for accelerating the adoption of eHealth in aged care in Europe” For more information please visit the eHealth Week website: http://www.ehealthweek.org

 

Maria Marenco

Independent Health Informatics Consultant, Sweden/UK/Malta