With the digitalization of healthcare, health practitioners can combat loneliness and isolation in their senior patients, as well as improve accuracy and reduce costs.
Loneliness and isolation among seniors remains one of the most urgent and fast-growing epidemics, especially during COVID-19. And, unfortunately, it’s largely invisible.
Hundreds of thousands of seniors worldwide are struggling with prolonged isolation and loneliness. This leads to serious side effects such as poor mental health, a decline in physical health, deteriorating quality of life, and, naturally, increased healthcare costs.
To make matters worse, as the world’s population and life expectancy continue to increase on an unprecedented scale, so do the impacts of loneliness and isolation among seniors. In fact, more than one-third of older Americans claimed to be lonely before COVID-19, a number which is likely to have grown tremendously in recent months. The number of lonely seniors in the UK alone is projected to increase by up to 49% by 2025. And, in China, there will be over 90 million seniors by 2050. Imagine what’s happening around the rest of the world.
Therefore, finding new solutions to combat this increase in loneliness is crucial. The digitalization of healthcare is a promising solution that can combat this. Let’s find out how.
Did you know, the effects of loneliness and isolation are the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day? Loneliness is thought to act on the body, just like chronic stress. Levels of stress hormones are raised, which impairs our immune responses and increases our risk of catching illnesses.
It’s clear that loneliness has a huge impact on seniors’ mental and physical well-being. And, more often than not, it leads to misunderstood or misdiagnosed chronic health challenges, such as an increased risk for obesity, heart problems, depression, and more, which can easily become life-threatening and increase chances of hospitalization if not treated early.
However, the digitalization of healthcare has transformed the way care professionals and seniors access and monitor healthcare. With the introduction of remote health solutions, care professionals can implement remote engagement methods with access to real-time patient monitoring and AI analysis of behavior. This enables the detection of deviations from their patient’s health, thereby facilitating early detection and prevention of conditions, while providing additional touches with patients to make them feel connected and supported.
Unlike other industries, healthcare has been slow to jump on the digital bandwagon. But with COVID-19 driving the necessity for remote care, digitalization has started to shape the future of healthcare by introducing a new class of solutions that shift the focus from treatment to prevention.
Now, healthcare practitioners can prevent, monitor, treat, and manage their patient’s health conditions remotely. This, in turn, improves diagnosis, delivery of treatments, personalized care, quality of life, and more.
As for the patient, remote healthcare solutions enable patients to access healthcare at all times, from the comfort and safety of their own homes. These types of solutions can be scaled for the vast number of lonely seniors around the globe, and enable caregivers and physicians to provide highly personalized care with preventative activities suited to the individual’s needs and interests.
Therefore, not only does this type of care tackle loneliness by promoting independence but it also ensures the mental and physical well-being of the patient, through continuous monitoring and evaluation of various needs.
Loneliness and isolation may come hand-in-hand, but they aren’t the only culprit when it comes to the deteriorating health of seniors. Unfortunately, people tend to ignore their physical health when their mental health is affected. Lonely people, who feel no one has concern for them, are more likely to drink, smoke, eat unhealthily, and generally lead an unhealthy lifestyle.
Aside from treating known physical conditions, remote care in the home enables practitioners to be involved and monitor all areas of their patient’s lives, including their lifestyle. This means, practitioners can now gain the whole picture of what goes on in their patient’s lives and keep an eye on any changes, to ensure that they are taking the right preventative steps.
Further, personalized remote care opens the doors to patient engagement. These new technologies encourage patients to take part in and maintain their health. Naturally, this begins to stimulate their brain to release feel-good hormones, which help to combat low mental states.
This keeps patients energized, makes them pro-active when it comes to their health, and decreases hospitalization.
COVID-19 has shown us that we live in an age where we can easily communicate with anyone, anytime, and anywhere. With just a few clicks of a button, loneliness and isolation may not be considered to be a problematic condition. However, despite the connectivity that technology has brought about, as a society, we are lonelier than ever – and no one feels this more than the elderly.
Technology also introduced good things when it comes to health, most notably, the digitalization of healthcare. Remote and in the home care is an effective, scalable, and cost-efficient solution to fighting and preventing loneliness and deteriorating mental and physical health among seniors across the world.
Technology can be used to support social engagement, encourage seniors to be proactive with their health and lifestyle, and provide practitioners with a birds-eye view of all the things that impact and contribute to their patient’s health. Armed with this information, healthcare practitioners are able to make more informed decisions to aid preventative measures and treatments.