Will Digital Health help close the Care Gap?

Now that you know what Digital Health is, are you feeling better? Rant on: In my search for knowledge this morning, I watched a short graphical video provided by the founder, Paul Sonnier, of the LinkedIn Group called Digital Health. I watched to learn something and help shed light on one of the greatest mumbo-jumbo terminology taxonomies since the launch of three letter acronyms (TLAs) that were sported by IT professionals in the 70s and 80s. This fast-paced explanatory video was, naturally, titled "What is Digital Health?" Since there is no room for additional synonyms in the taxonomy entry on my blog, it was important for me to check it out.

Alas, I'm not feeling better but am I better informed? No light, unfortunately. At the end of rapid-fire graphics, his voiceover and associated text concludes without any apparent irony: "The lexicon of Digital Health is extensive and includes all or elements of mHealth (aka Mobile Health), Wireless Health, Health 2.0, eHealth, Health IT, Big Data, Health Data, Cloud Computing, e-Patients, Quantified Self and Self-tracking, Wearable Computing, Gamification, Telehealth & Telemedicine, Precision and Personalized Medicine, plus Connected Health." [Disclosure -- all links were added by me and offer amazing definition overlap.] You can see why investors love this stuff. Perpetual renaming and classification obfuscation throughout this 'lexicon' prevents the moneyed set from having a meaningful clue about what they are investing in. Clearly Vinod Khosla's comment that Technology Would Replace 80% of Doctors is one of those remarks that doesn't enhance investor reputation. But today's all-things-health mania does remind me of the early days of the eCommerce boom -- or the days in IT when a BSA was hip deep in CRM, DRM, SRM, PRM and that most-appropriately-named among big bucks enterprise lock-downs masquerading as software, SAP.  

In the healthcare realm, what’s NOT an element of Digital Health?  I suppose Surgery and Wound Care aren’t, though both rely on some elements of Health Data. And don’t you love the fact that the NSA is not alone in seeing the massive opportunity in Big Data? For efficiency’s sake, I hope that health Big Data resides in the Cloud, and leverages all of our other nuggets of Health Data, including our previous hospitalizations, surgeries and allergies. Why, despite the breadth of Digital Health, are we always asked: "Any allergies to medicine?"  Is there a secure digital medication history for us that reflects multiple physicians and prescriptions for the same patient? What's up with the VA and its paperless EHR failure to connect two departments? Who knew that the leading breakthrough today in health was Gamification? See how cleverly it is being used to educate employees about benefits.

Meanwhile, AARP released a report today about family caregiving's frightening future. For a sharp contrast to Digital Health otherworldliness, look at the real (and future) world – in which the baby boom ages past 80. AARP’s Public Policy Institute released a report today about the growing Care Gap for the 80+ population, modeled and projected out to 2030 and 2050.  Does Digital Health play a role in family caregiving in 2010? How about in the year 2030? How about 2050, the year that the youngest of the baby boomers will be aged 80+? That’s the age at which 55.8% of this age segment will have a severe disability, when a third will need help with activities of daily living (ADLs).  Unfortunately, the potential caregiving population will have declined in inverse proportion to the rising age of baby boomers. This will happen slowly over the next decade, dropping down from 7.2 available caregivers per "high risk senior" during the current decade, then down to 4.1 in 2030, then down further to 2.9 available family caregivers per high risk senior by 2050.  Which of the Digital Health elements will help with that care? Courtesy of Joe Coughlin in 2006, it seems that Cathedral Builders are still wanted to help apply the Digital Health cottage companies in an integrated and communicative way to assist those 2.9 caregivers with that burden. Rant off.

Digital health to close the care gap seems like the only option

Even surgery and wound care can benefit from digital health. Video conferencing has changed the way people in small towns can access world class specialists, and surgeons can consult with each other from a distance. Being able to store pictures of wounds to measure the progression of healing is a significant advance from drawn pictures and written measurements. Digital health has potential everywhere.

I completely agree that the terminology is terribly confusing! There is so much overlap in definitions and functionality, but not enough communication and data sharing between solutions. Just like you say- why can't we have multiple pharmacies sharing information to prevent medication errors.

It seems that digital health is becoming a more obvious solution as we look ahead 30 or 40 years and recognize that a more sustainable solution to caring for our aging population is required. Now is the time to encourage and support the innovators in the digital health realm to create new products and systems. Let's test drive them now, while we have the manpower, and hope that we find something we can rely on into the future.

In all these labels, I still

In all these labels, I still don't see a category for memory assistants, or memory assistive devices, or anything similar. And yet forgetfulness is one of the most disabling conditions for independent living, and one of the most draining for caregivers to deal with. Is this not health? Is our mobile app, Memo, not tech? If we could put it in a category, people would comprehend more easily what it does and how it works.

Using electronic gizmos to give more care for the same effort

The articles quoted in the article point out the conflict between increasing need of care and a diminishing ability to give this care.

Our view is that devices can be used to project our love and kindness into Grandma's living room. A strong need is for her to feel loved and to love in return. Ours, the caregivers, is to manage the many demands on our capabilities.

If we Skype Grandma a couple of times a week instead of a visit, this may save us some wear and tear and enable us to go to a PTA meeting or just to sit a while in the garden.

The direct health functions work both ways. Our Pill scheduler for example is intended to improve medication compliance, and this in turn will keep Grandma in better health reducing demands on your time too. Are there others with as good a return on effort?

http://WWW.Stay-in-Touch.ca is an Android tablet in Grandma's living room, and a companion web site. One of its best features is that it has significant functionality without any Touches or button pushes. The root is Family Pictures, you send them and they "just arrive". Other functions include Skype, Videos and medication Schedule, and phoning even if she is getting deaf, all managed remotely without any touches by Grandma.

We need some families willing to test this out, called a Beta test, Alpha is just fixing the bugs the programmer sees! You can use a new Android TV Dongle like the Minix Neo G4 which are quite cheap, or a Nexus 7 tablet.

The longer term plan is to use the powerful, always-on, Internet-connected computer in the senior's living room to make life better. We do not know which dimensions to do first. Is leaving the stove on a serious problem? Or perhaps reminding Grandma to empty her bladder before it is too full and the bathroom is too far away and she rushes and falls?
email jbrohan@tradersmicro.com

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