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More care with better technology

Artikkelen tilhører Health and biotechnology, postet 4. feb 2009

Hilde Lovett
KONTAKTPERSON:

Hilde Lovett

Technology may provide security for people of old age, and make warm hands available to care for the elderly.

GPS-tracking of people suffering from dementia, smart house technology in care homes and bio-sensors for the chronically ill. The “wave of elderly” must be met with care technology and home based telemedicine. Norway has to think anew to be able to offer a safe and dignified care for the elderly in the future. While countries like Denmark, England and Scotland are relying on an extensive use of care technology, there is hardly a national policy on this in Norway.

1,1 billion NOK towards 2015

By 2035 there will be twice as many elderly over 80 years of age. The wave of elderly will increase demands on health care services, while the access to competent labor force will be scarce. New technology can improve quality, and increase productivity, in the care services.

– We still have the opportunity to upgrade the sector before the real growth in demand begins. To succeed, new granting from the state sector of at least 1,1 billion NOK is
needed, in the period towards 2015, challenges Tore Tennøe at the the Norwegian Board of Technology.

The “technology billions” shall go to fund investment support for municipalities, building of competence and innovation.

To live at home for an extended period of time

In the future, care technology will become more important for the elderly, regardless of their health. The opportunity to live at home can be broadened; one can receive better follow-up and treatment of chronic illnesses from one’s home, where also rehabilitation may take place, and necessary healthcare while travelling can be provided.

Tracking technology can give patients suffering from dementia security and freedom to move around outside of their home. Internet can in addition strengthen the elderly’s opportunities to communicate with the health services,  and participate in society and in new social forums.

Technologies such as smart houses or tracking solutions may also relieve and support relatives in their care for the elderly. Administrative technology can help healthcare personnel do a better and more efficient job, where more time can be spent on personal contact with the patient and tasks related to the health profession.

Security kit for all care recipients

The municipal care services should include a voluntary “Security kit” – a set of care technologies installed in the home, or carried by the user. Some examples include fall sensors, automatic medication, door control, tracking solutions for people suffering from dementia, as well as bio-sensors for those with chronic diseases such as COPD, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Demands towards the municipalities

All new care and nursing homes should be built with infrastructure appropriate for smart house technology. Municipalities should also be able to handle messages and automatic alarms sent from homes and persons using care technology.

Ethical and justifiable use of new technology

Use of care technologies can lead to unfortunate consequences. There is a danger that use of technology might increase loneliness if it diminishes human contact. If one is not able to master or understand the solutions implemented, one might feel alienated in one’s own life or home. The purpose for the use of care technology must be to provide better and more targeted care. Use of technology related to body or home must be voluntary.
There is also a need for clear rules concerning how to maintain privacy. The Norwegian Board of Technology’s suggestion entails that sensitive data should be transmitted from user to health personnel. Because of this we must have good routines for handling information, as well as for safe communications. This is a necessary consequence of the fact that we are moving medical surveillance into people’s homes.

Growing market for care technology

Despite a significant need for new ways of thinking and rapidly growing markets for care technology, little innovation is being done in the care services. There is no reason not to demand innovation in the health care sector, similar to the demands being made for innovation in the specialist health service. Norway already has well-functioning models for publicly facilitated innovation, which can be transferred to the health sector. Demands for user-oriented innovation in publicly supported development projects for the care sector should also be implemented.

A new wave of the elderly

Most elderly people want to live at home, granted that they are safe and able to trust that they will receive necessary help when needed. Care technology can help to make this possible.

The new elderly will be a resourceful generation. More and more people will have good health, good personal economy and a high level of education. Norwegian women of over 55 years of age are leading in Europe with regards to use of new technology. Thereby, Norway has a good foundation in a population who are accustomed to using technology.

The Norwegian Board of Technology’s group for the project Old age in the Future:
•        Astrid Nøklebye Heiberg, former leader of The National Council of Senior Citizens
•        Sidsel Bjørneby, GERIA, Oslo municipality
•        Kåre Hagen, Norwegian Business School BI
•        Siri Bjørvig, Norwegian Center for Care and Telemedicine
•        Evy-Anni Evensen, Lyngdal municipality
•        Christoffer Ellingsen, Medinnova
•        Åse Kari Haugeto, The Norwegian Board of Technology (project manager)

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