By 2030, one in five Americans will be over the age of 65. Along with their memories and wisdom, our rising senior population will bring a host of challenges, from an increase in familiar illnesses that need constant monitoring and treatment, to newer problems like an expanding gap between the number of healthcare workers available to help patients.
On the positive side, as average life expectancy increases in the U.S. and other developed nations, so has the quality of life into old age. Growing older no longer means growing more sedentary. Improvements in medicine and wellness have enabled our aging population to enjoy more independent, active lifestyles well past retirement age. In addition, more and more families are seeking ways to allow their most senior members to age in the home rather than the nursing home.
While more active and independent, the elderly are more likely to need frequent and/or immediate medical care. Fortunately, our population is not the only thing that’s getting more mature. The technologies underlying the Internet of Things, the Cloud, healthcare cloud storage and more importantly, embeddable medical devices are all rapidly advancing and together they promise exciting new solutions for enabling all this newfound freedom.
Put simply, embeddable devices are the natural heir to today’s wearable electronics, except rather than being worn, they are implanted in the body. Right out of the gate, this offers clear advantages to a part of the population that constantly forgets where it just put its glasses down.
In its initial stages, embedded technology promises a range of sensor applications that can help monitor and wirelessly transmit anything from vital signs to glucose to cholesterol to mobility. Linked to the Cloud, it can remotely alert doctors to the early signs of illness in a patient before symptoms even begin to appear. Thus, embeddable technology can not only trigger earlier treatment, it may in later generations lead to devices that actively administer treatment, such as a dose of medicine.
Embedded devices not only may enable the elderly to live alone at home longer or travel more frequently, it may also expand treatment options for younger patients afflicted with chronic diseases. No matter what age the patient is, many chronic conditions require frequent and diligent testing throughout the day. Embeddables can help automate this task and allow chronic sufferers to focus their time and energy on living life. The technology can also proactively share health data with doctors, to significantly shorten the time or frequency of medical appointments.
A new revolution of Big Data cloud computing driven health decisions and care delivery is at hand. A network of linked devices and other objects collecting, sending and receiving data about people, environments and processes without human interaction or input will enable a new model of Connected Health not only for the elderly and chronically ill but for the entire population.
Famed baseball player, Casey Stengel, once said, “The trick is growing up without growing old.” As embeddable medical devices and their enabling technologies mature, they will help an aging population share more than their memories and wisdom. It will enable them to live more active, independent lives without compromising the active care they need.