8 opportunities for digital health to support aging in place


New Medicare Advantage plan benefits and increased tech adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic will help support older adults aging in place, but there's still a range of opportunities where digital health can help improve healthcare for older adults.

In a Sept. 8 report, Rock Health examines barriers and opportunities in digital health to seniors aging in place, or living in their own home safely and independently rather than moving to a care facility. Older adults still see barriers with aging in place, such as the fear of not being able to afford living at home (29 percent), feeling like their homes aren't suitable (24 percent), worried about feeling alone (19 percent), and not being close enough in proximity to friends and family (17 percent), according to the report.

Here are eight areas of opportunity for digital health technologies to alleviate some of those burdens and help enhance aging in place:

1. Online platforms and digital tools can help make Medicare Advantage plans more transparent, so consumers can better select a plan tailored to their specific needs.

2. Tech can help keep seniors connected, as older adults cited the fear of being alone as the top emotional barrier to aging in place. Numerous tech companies have started creating virtual and AI communities where seniors can engage and stay mentally and physically active.

3. Health IT solutions can address issues such as food insecurity, which 10 percent of older adults experience, according to the report. Companies such as Aunt Bertha are filling gaps between healthcare and social services to identify resources to help meet patients' social determinants of health needs.

4. Patient engagement tech has the opportunity to help boost older adults' health literacy, as 29 percent of adults at least 65 years old have difficulty obtaining and understanding basic health information and services. With digital tools, health systems and providers can help increase health literacy by offering visual explanations and electronic support.

5. At-home rehab technologies can help older adults who leave the hospital after major events such as heart attack or stroke. Telemedicine helps patients compete necessary therapies and check-ups from the comfort of their own home.

6. Hospital-at-home programs for acute care can help reduce strain on at-capacity providers, lower costs and decrease hospital-acquired infections. At-home care monitoring platforms have expanded to offer digital toolsets, such as ventilators and prosthetics, to support acute conditions at home.

7. Digital platforms for finding and training caregivers also supports aging in place, because they allow families to find caregivers for their aging parents while keeping them in their home and reducing stress.

8. Unpaid caregivers are faced with numerous decisions such as insurance, coordinating home care and making end-of-life decisions for older adults. Digital health companies including Bright Horizons and Torchlight are helping caregivers coordinate care for older adults by offering platforms that gather information and resources and offer 24/7 support for individual questions.

Click here to view the full report.

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