Care for the future
Increasing longevity and dropping fertility have led to population ageing in many countries, particularly in Europe. From 1990 to 2010, for example, the median population of EU-27 countries rose from 35.2 years to 40.9 years, with even larger increases in Slovenia, Portugal, Lithuania, Germany, Spain, Malta, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria. Swiss Re ranks rapidly changing age demographics among the key risks faced by many societies today.
As the ratio between working-age and older people decreases and people live longer overall, often with chronic diseases or disabilities, demand for skilled nursing and healthcare management will increasingly outstrip supply. At-home care will therefore play an ever more important role in maintaining public health and quality of life. The aim of this project is to help patients monitor and manage their own health at home, reducing the need for care from doctors, professional caregivers and institutional providers.
An international research project on “Healthy Aging” sponsored by the European Ambient Assisted Living Programme, USECARE is developing and testing at-home health monitoring devices that use information and communication technology (ICT) to help people with chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) take charge of their health and live more independently.
This project with the Swiss Re Foundation targets elderly patients with NCDs such as heart failure and diabetes as the primary end-users of at-home ICT solutions and their informal caregivers as secondary end-users. It is field-testing a prototype ICT solution for NCD patients in a diverse set of European cultural settings (Norway, Israel and Switzerland), with a focus on interactions between patients and their caregivers.
The application, or app, under study is designed to run on web-connected general-purpose tablets and smartphones with web connections. It can monitor health indicators, supervise administration of medication, suggest physical fitness exercises and healthy food choices and alert informal caregivers and/or medical professionals if the data collected suggest a problem needing immediate attention. Patients define who has access to their data.
GOALS AND EXPECTED IMPACT
USECARE’s overall objective is to stabilise and improve patients’ health through self-managed improvements in lifestyle (such as exercise and diet) and adherence to prescribed therapies. Its specific aims are to:
- Enable patients and their caregivers to self- and co-manage therapy adherence and to aggregate and share data
- Involve patients and their caregivers in refining the prototype solution, in particular with respect to improving accessibility for users with serious physical or mental impairments
- Raise public awareness of new ICT-based strategies for managing NCDs at home and develop a sustainable macroeconomic and business case for ICT-enabled care
The direct beneficiaries of this research will be the 48 patients over age of 60 who are participating in the field test and their informal caregivers. As the questions being addressed have sweeping implications, particularly for societies with ageing populations, the potential indirect beneficiaries number in the millions.