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Helping the Aged: How eHealth Initiatives could aid Elderly Independence.



With Father's Day just behind us, thoughts for those that didn't forget naturally turn to our own parents and grandparents. But it does beg the question how many people will be visiting their elderly parents or grandparents not at home but instead on a hospital ward this year.


A recent survey by Age UK revealed that elderly people are being 'trapped' in hospitals due to the ever-worsening crisis in social care outside hospitals. A severe lack of resources, both financial and human, mean that the healthcare system is simply unable to cope with the sheer weight of requirement coming from elderly patients These patients spent a total of 2.5 million days stuck in hospital beds over the past five years, instead of being discharged to their own homes or residential facilities.


The findings point to a clear shortcoming in the provision of elderly patient care, as not only are such long stretches of hospitalisation distressing to patients, they come at a huge cost to the NHS and, ultimately, the taxpayer. Where hospitalisation occurs due to lack of viable alternative rather than genuine medical need, the bill rises ever higher, especially as the number of people being kept in hospital from 2014-2015 increased by 19% on the previous year. With an NHS bed costing around £2,000 per week as opposed to £560 a week for a bed in residential care, such hospital stays are a waste of the already overstretched NHS budget, and reveal the desperate need for reform in social care.


The charity's analysis of NHS England's patient data showed with shocking clarity quite how severe the social care crisis has become. England's patient data showed with shocking clarity quite how severe the social care crisis has become. In the last financial year, elderly people were left waiting for a total of 637,000 days for access to resources and staff needed to leave hospital, and regain independence at home or in residential homes. It's in this respect that digital healthcare initiatives can help alleviate the pressure on both patients and providers. Nobody, least of all their loved ones, wants to see elderly people left languishing in hospital beds rather than receiving the correct care and attention they need particularly if it comes at the cost of their independence. We believe that Telehealth technologies could be used with elderly patients to help them complete their recovery in the comfort of their own home, and provide support to care workers in providing better care and a safer environment out of hospital. With the capacity to measure vital signs remotely an continuously, Oxecam has the ability to work with such systems to provide round the clock care and surveillance of patients, with considerably less disruption to recovery or cost to NHS budgets than an extended hospital stay.


Despite the injection of an extra £35 million into local councils for social care, funding alone seems unlikely to be able to help the hundreds of thousands of elderly patients requiring social care long term. New technologies and new thinking is required if we are to tackle existing shortcomings, and the potential benefits to be reaped from NHS uptake of digital initiatives is almost limitless.


For more on how healthcare technology could help to address the NHS deficit, see our last blog: Telemedicine and the 7-Day NHS "Timebomb".