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As funding for aging tech rises, are near-term solutions elusive?

Please tell me I am wrong. As the economy sinks, funding for health IT has grown -- and of course, the National Institute on Aging continues to fund research on global aging.  Meanwhile Intel researches and invests, along with GE, in sensor-based monitoring technology. But I am uneasy.

How will a boatload of funding and research be applied and leveraged to help seniors in the near term? As I talk to more experts about technology and health in the home, everyone says we are in a crisis of care -- too much need, not enough resource. But we seem to be caught in a paradox: the ability of vendors to help today's seniors appears to be inversely proportional to results. 

What is the reality today?

  • The senior housing market is stalled. Senior housing providers are struggling to make money. But seniors are unable to move from their homes into senior housing, an industry that is at the minimum, in near-dire straits, and in some cases, like Sunrise, may face restructuring. How will these providers tech-enable help for seniors?
  • The federal government is enthusiastic about health IT.  Meanwhile, the US government wants technology-enablement in health care. And companies with even a tangential connection to EMR or PHR or any other health-related 'R' see much grant and revenue opportunity.
  • Technology vendors are struggling. No quantification here -- tell me that I am wrong. My impression is that the many small and passionate vendors that make up the leading edge of commercialization of tech products for seniors can't thrive in an anemic economic environment.
  • Research marches on - unencumbered by commercial products?  Last week I spoke with a university researcher who leads a team providing technology to a senior housing community. Very cool, sort of. But while firms that provide monitoring look to find new sources of revenue and stay viable, this grant-enabled facility is supplied by a university graduate program's own engineering, not by commercial product.
  • What about help for caregivers? Meanwhile, 44 million caregivers struggle even more during the recession, with no stimulus package, no university program, no available corporate research programs, and no health IT solution that will make a difference for them day-to-day.
  • Long-term care costs still rise. And the paradox sharpens with new data -- the cost of long-term care has just been updated by Genworth Financial -- the biggest increase is in Medicare-certified home health agency rates up 13.16% over the past five years.

Comments and contradictions are welcome.


I am very skeptical of the so called increase in "health IT" spending by the Federal Government.  It is not clear at all that the goals include improving the lives of an aging population.  Given the direction of the new administration it would seem there is a troubling trend toward control as opposed to anything as noble as compassion for a significant portion of our population.  The data collection and programs to help manage healthcare all sound good on the surface, but have some serious potential downsides that will insert the Government and "cost effective treatments" between you and your doctor.  Show me the legislation that will provide grants, or tax breaks, to train and equip Seniors with laptop computers to stay connected with the world and I'll change my mind.  One thing that comes with an aging mind is the ability to "smell a rat" before you see it!


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