Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
For med management – are blister packs the state of the art? Recently I heard about a presentation in a senior housing provider family meeting that should not have surprised me. A pharmacy exec was presenting the benefits and savings of switching residents from pill bottles to blister packs - warning of the sizable penalties associated with continuing with labor-intensive pill bottles. Wal-Mart is deploying this cardboard packaging for a multi-drug regimen across 4600 stores. Medication management is a big issue for senior housing (AL and SNF) and there are state-by-state regulations for its proper oversight. But just like the presentation I heard about, is technology use for its dispensing and management considered? Perhaps seeing that, check out how Philips is bundling several technology-enabled services for senior housing organizations to deploy… in private homes, that is, for the folks who may never move in.
The more tech that’s invented, how much is utilized? We are in a tech-saturated time – sensors, tracking labels, miniaturization, mobileThis and mThat, smart phones for this, tablets for that. This has excited a health-related market and created a new industry of mobile health innovation. And smart phone AND tablet ownership have both risen from 13% to 18% among the 65+ (somehow I bet the same responder has both devices). Does this mean it is time for a mobile health app aimed at the older population or a smarter pill bottle like GlowCaps – now available in CVS? Will seniors switch to a device like MedMinder or maybe the just-announced AdhereTech reminder pill bottle? Direct consumers may, of course, include some older adults or perhaps adult children who may buy on behalf of their parents. I have not seen a recent survey of older adults to know who among the 75+ uses any of these products.
No tech, low-tech – are seniors, especially older women, losing out? For the moment, let’s assume that senior housing organizations are not driving a groundswell of tech adoption. Reverse the Pew percentage – 72% of seniors do not have smart phones or tablets – thus are unlikely to be in the mHealth target market. Maybe they just want to be left alone. But they are routinely defrauded of their resources by crooks – $3 billion -- that see them as an easy target. One in four of the ten million aged 65+ population lives alone; the majority are women. Only a very small percentage, that is the wealthy oldest, are living in assisted living or they and their assets are spent down in nursing homes. Outside of the optimal income level or age range, they’re home alone – sitting ducks for phony phone calls from credit card companies, bogus sales pitches, and banks that one might think could be trusted with money! Technology doesn’t solve every problem, but it can be comforting when isolated (see Facebook), convenient when far away (see mobile banking tech), and consultative in unlikely circumstances (see remote diagnostic technologies).