Archive | October 2012

And tomorrow WALL-E is taking care of you

Nowadays, a lot of research is conducted in the area of healthcare robotics, which has the potential to increase the quality of life for our silver population. Imagine!

I would like to tell you about the examples of New Zealand and South Korea – two countries that are combining their knowledge in order to build and develop something groundbreaking. Here, South Korea contributes from the hardware-side, while New Zealand is busy developing the latest software (check out: HealthBots Project, launched in 2008).

Healthcare robots that can take grandma’s heart rate or blood pressure are the outcome of the research. But besides simple medical jobs, robots can also play a tremendous role in monitoring, as they are able to store and manage the patient’s relevant medical data. All this can make elderly care much more cost-effective.

Another idea is that robots can enhance old people’s quality of live by offering entertainment, e.g. through music, films, games and the use of social media as Skype.

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All this sounds futuristic, but the question is if it is a concept that will be feasible: Will decision-makers be willing to invest in healthcare robotics? And will our grandparents (our parents? we? our kids?) enjoy interaction with robots? A lot more studies have to be carried out in order to find out more about cost-effectiveness, but particularly about interaction between human beings and machines – and thus, about the increase (or not) of people’s quality of life.

Healthcare robots could change lives: http://www.msi.govt.nz/update-me/success-stories/research/healthcare-robots-could-change-lives/ (December 2011)

The Telegeriatric Nursing Training in the Philippines

ACCESS Health Philippines successfully conducted the first Telegeriatric Nursing Training in the Philippines last October 15-17, 2012 at the Global Distance Learning Center (GDLC), Asian Institute of Management (AIM). The training was a joint activity of ACCESS Health International, Ayala Foundation, Inc., Home Health Care, ClickMedix and AIM-Zuellig Center for Asian Business Transformation (ZCABT). It aims to develop a sustainable telegeriatric ecosystem in the country through a combination of public and private partners and develop the business models and discover price points for the different players of telehealth. 

Registered nurses and nursing schools’ faculty attended the two and half day training. The organizers received positive feedback and appreciation from the participants for initiating the training. Also, some issues and concerns were raised such as the liability and accountability in doing telehealth. Further comprehensive research was one of the recommendations in terms of  policy, target market, availability and capacity needs of healthcare service providers,  financing aspect, the need to have an implementing rules and regulations in implementing telehealth to set standards according to health care laws, and the need to take into considerations the lessons learned from the existing innovations for health.

Nevertheless, the Telegeriatric Nursing Training is just the beginning of opening the door of opportunities for the largely untapped nursing community in the Philippines.

Find out more about the event from ACCESS Health.

Diabetes and Canada: Don’t Forget the Youth!

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there are primary risk factors for obtaining a chronic disease. While the following are quite typical to hear, we must be reminded of them: tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, raised blood pressure (or hypertension), physical inactivity, raised cholesterol, overweight/obesity, an unhealthy diet, and raised blood glucose.  The Canadian Best Practices Portal has on their news line a report about diabetes in Canada from the Public Health Agency and mentions some preventative solutions.

According to the Public Health Agency report, there are several factors previously mentioned here that can promulgate the development of type 2 diabetes: namely, obesity, physical inactivity, the risk of an unhealthy diet (less than five servings of vegetables and fruit a day), and smoking. Most of these factors attribute to nearly all of the risks — where others include socio-demographic, environmental, or genetic factors.

With the risk factors in mind, it is notable to say nowadays that a highly at-risk population for obtaining type 2 diabetes is young people — with rates of physical inactivity and consumption of high-fat foods being on the rise. Interventions suggested by the Public Health Agency thus include increasing the time for physical activity in school curricula, instituting educational campaigns (which include the understanding of food labels and to teach youth how to cook nutritious, low-fat foods), providing access to community recreational facilities, networking for improving nutrition and physical activity, providing training to staff and volunteers for the skills required to promote population health, and mandating a local health service (i.e. a diabetes education center) . Notably, they stress a “holistic approach” that encompasses social, economic, environmental, genetic and lifestyle factors associated with type 2 diabetes.

“Type 1 diabetes remains the main form of the disease in this population [children and youth], but type 2 diabetes, historically viewed as an adult disease, has been on the rise globally in children and youth for the last decades.”

Why is the health of the young so important when we should be focusing on the rapid aging rate?

This is a notable question to consider, and my answer is that with the continuous drain of services for elderly due to the widespread aging process, fewer and fewer staff will be able to take care of them. What indeed could we do if the next generations of our world could not even take care of the old because they are not healthy themselves? It is an insight that we all must realize — that although there still remains a lack of focus on the rising aging population, we most certainly shouldn’t turn our heads away from the young.

Public Health Agency of Canada. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/index-eng.php

Canadian Best Practices Portal. http://cbpp-pcpe.phac-aspc.gc.ca/

Diabetes in Canada (PHA). http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cd-mc/publications/diabetes-diabete/facts-figures-faits-chiffres-2011/index-eng.php

Another Genius in Geriatrics!

In the US, every year the MacArthur Foundation gives an award called the “Genius Grant”(and $500,000 with no strings attached) to, what else, but a number of geniuses.  And this year it included a geriatrician, Dr. Eric Coleman!

Dr. Coleman, at the University of Colorado, is already famous in geriatrics for his groundbreaking work in care transitions.  An increasingly complicated problem, the fact that older adults are more likely to be in the hospital means that, naturally, they are more likely to be discharged from hospitals.  Discharged where?  Sometimes they are discharged back home, but sometimes to a nursing home or rehabilitation center and then back home.  Or– unfortunately– often back to the hospital.  The maze of transitions is only worse because doctors, nurses and the health care systems they work in do not do it well.   This is where Dr. Coleman comes in.  He has created systems to help make the back-and-forth to the hospital happen less often or happen more smoothly when it does.  And this is both an immensely complicated and immensely important problem to be solving– hoping to save money, lives, time and quality of life.

He joins some incredible people who have been honored in the past for their incredible work for older adults.

Last year, Marie-Therese Connolly, and elder rights lawyer was recognized for her work in elder abuse.  In 2009, Dr. Mary Tinetti at Yale won for her pioneering work in falls. And in 2008, Dr. Diane Meier at Mt. Sinai in New York won for her incredible work in palliative care for people at the end of life.

The more these leaders are recognized for their committment and contribution to the care of older adults, the more the world will see the important and serious problems facing older adults today.  Hooray to the geniuses working to help seniors!

3D Dentomed – Mobile dental health units for elderly who are unable to visit the dentist

3D Dentomed is a Swedish company that works with mobile dental care for the elderly and the disabled in a very innovative way. They move their mobile clinics between different nursing homes to enable the treatment of all elderly, not only the ones that are mobile enough to go to the dentist’s office. The mobile clinic is fully equipped with proper dental chair and x-ray, which enables offering all the treatments that a normal dental visit would offer. The mobile unit and its equipment was developed by the Karolinska Institute department for Oral Diagnostics as a compensation for abandoned hospital clinics and reduced staffing at nursing homes.

The mobile unit is normally placed in a nursing home during a period of 3 to 5 weeks but the unit can also be sent to the elderly’s home. Bedridden patients can even receive their treatment in bed. Routines of hygiene in the mobile unit are the same as in a stationary clinic.

Dentomed is the only company in its field to date that has succeeded in outreach mobile dental care on a continuous basis. The founder of the company, Anne von Hofsten, is a dental hygienist and had identified a real need for better dental health among elderly. Due to the medication elderly often take; such as beta-blockers and cardiac drugs, they often suffer from having a dry mouth, which can cause severe problems. Dentomed has operations in eight county councils in Sweden and have approximately 50.000 patients and 45 employees. Due to the success of the concept, they are now expanding internationally.

I believe this concept comes in handy in today’s struggle towards a more patient-centered care. Furthermore, dental care is a very important issue, which is too often overlooked. 

Source: http://www.dentomed.se

Innovation in Transportation for Seniors: The Elements

The Community Transportation Association (CTAA) and the Beverly Foundation of the United States brought forth a quote in their report from rural America: “Many of our innovations are by necessity, not by design.” Being driven by necessity is, unfortunately, a hard and cold fact for innovations in general. Only at the brink of when we are about to run out of a resource are our major leaders interested in bringing something new forward. Concerning transportation — and particularly in rural areas — it is indeed a necessity to consider the elderly population.

A summary of CTAA’s and Beverly Foundation’s findings [1]:

(1) The out-migration of the younger population,
and the in-migration and aging-in-place of the older
population, has resulted in an increase in the
population that is less mobile and less able to drive
or navigate transportation services.

(2) Many seniors, especially those who are frail and
in need of assistance, depend on community
transportation services to get to both life sustaining
and life enriching activities.

(3) Transportation services face numerous
operational and financial challenges in meeting the
transportation needs of seniors.

(4) Transportation services generally address
everyday challenges such as scheduling with everyday
solutions such as technology.

(5) In addition to everyday solutions, many
transportation services successfully introduce new
or novel changes from the standard way of doing
things. Such changes generally are described as
innovations.

According to this source, the Keys to Innovation (beyond leadership) include A Point of Origin (i.e. Why is this innovation needed? In this case, transportation may be forced to shut down if nothing is done due to a financial crisis with driver salaries, etc.), An Idea Factory (i.e. Where innovations are created. For example, a volunteer driving program), People Markers (i.e. The people define the innovation. For example, riders recruit drivers and drivers recruit riders), and last but not least, a Receptive Culture (i.e. The status of the society’s willingness for change.)

As the decline of infrastructure was apparent in rural America — and the rate with which the elderly population rose higher than when compared to urban America (also considering the differential between the youth leaving vs. the older staying) — the elderly in these areas have been having a challenge. Limitations include the lack of novel treatments and care, destination travel (with the factor of time — especially for long medical trips), and social isolation. But despite these enormous challenges, the Beverly Foundation and CTAA claimed that rural America is “doing a lot with a little,” so to speak.

References

1. http://www.ctaa.org/webmodules/webarticles/articlefiles/Senior_Rural_Innovations.pdf