Chronic illness affects more than 67% of Europeans who are more than 65 years old (Eurostat 2008), and up to half of all healthcare spending is now used to treat people in this age group (Jacobzone and Oxley 2002).
As the population continues to age over the coming decades, people with long-term conditions are going to place an enormous strain on already stretched healthcare resources. Indeed, unless alternative healthcare models can be applied, this shift in the population demographic could overwhelm healthcare systems throughout Europe.
The traditional healthcare model for older adults has involved acute and long-term care institutions, both of which are costly. Patients prefer to remain in their own homes, so a healthcare model that centres on the home as the primary site of care is likely to benefit everybody.
People who remain physically and socially active as they get older also tend to stay healthier longer.
Digital healthcare – the Intel Health Guide
The Intel Health Guide is one of the Intel Digital Health Group’s first solutions designed to make home healthcare a reality. It is focused on managing chronic diseases and is being deployed by NHS Lothian in a 400 unit programme – one of the largest of its kind in the UK.
The guide will provide in-home care for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other chronic conditions.
As well as developing products, Intel is helping to create a large marketplace of interoperable personal telehealth devices and services through the Continua Health Alliance.
With its collaboration in Continua and other efforts, Intel continues to work towards easing regulatory, reimbursement and policy barriers to the adoption of new healthcare technologies.
Understanding people and their healthcare needs
Intel’s research is focused on understanding the healthcare needs of older people and their carers, and on providing user-friendly technologies that meet those needs.
Innovation is essential to allow people to manage their own health and to provide carers, physicians and nurses with the information they need to deliver care whenever and wherever needed. By working towards this new healthcare model, Intel hopes to help older people live healthier, more independent lives.
Understanding people in their own environments
Intel believes that new digital health technologies can play a role keeping older adults connected with their doctors and extended healthcare teams while they remain in their own homes.
These technologies will emphasise monitoring and prevention rather than treatment, placing some of the responsibility for managing and directing care onto the patient. The goal is to see improved quality of life along with reductions in the need for inpatient care.
Developing digital technologies that both patients and clinicians are comfortable with requires an in-depth understanding of how people live and what they need. Intel established a long-term research project called the Global Aging Experience to look at these issues (The Global Aging Experience Project 2006).
Intel’s ethnographers spent time in homes and hospitals and clinics across 20 countries. Using interviews, observations and home visits, they studied how people interact with each other and their environments.
What do they find easy or difficult? What kind of device or intervention would help them the most? The ethnographers fed this information back to the engineers and scientists who design and produce new technologies.
Ethnography informs technology
Intel’s ethnographic research is being translated into innovative design concepts for health technologies. Such work is underway at the Technology Research for Independent Living Centre in Ireland, a joint initiative between Intel and Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency.
Researchers from Intel’s Digital Health group are working alongside multi-disciplinary researchers from Irish universities to develop technologies that support ageing in a home environment. The initial focus of their efforts is in the prevention of falls, cognitive function and social connection.
More information: To learn more about Intel’s health research efforts or to find specific research papers on the technologies mentioned in this piece, visit www.intel.com/healthcare/research. You can also register your details for information on forthcoming events, product information or background materials at: www.inteldigitalhealthgroup.co.uk.
Trademarks and brands: Intel is a trademark of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.
Please note: The Intel Health Guide requires an internet connection to enable communications with the patient’s care team and back-end data hosting. The Intel Health Guide is intended for use by patients under the guidance of a healthcare professional and is not intended for emergency medical communications or real-time patient monitoring.