The 5G opportunity for senior homecare

The Silver Tsunami is upon us. As per the US Census Bureau, by 2030, every fifth American will be a senior citizen. As per StatsCanada, every fifth Canadian will be a senior citizen even earlier, by 2024. These numbers are staggering and senior homecare providers have to factor in this significant population growth in their business models to continue to provide effective and cost-optimized care.

Traditionally, care has been delivered through Personal Support Workers (PSWs) and Home Health Aides (HHAs), with assistance from family caregivers. However, as our baby boomer population ages, there aren’t enough PSWs to cater to the needs of these seniors. The traditional models of homecare aren’t sustainable in the long-run, and there is an urgent need to reevaluate the current approach towards seniorcare, to help reduce the strain on healthcare facilities and respond to increasing demand-supply gaps.

This is where modern technologies come in. These technologies can help provide effective, affordable in-home care so that limited healthcare resources can be allocated to a growing senior population in an effective manner.

What does 5G bring to the table?

Today, we already see the use of IoT devices and Artificial Intelligence in the healthcare space. While these technologies help monitor our health and have the capability to use seemingly random data to generate meaningful insights, there is still a missing link. All this data being generated and analysed today, from wearables, medical and biometrics sensors and smartphones, is widely used for preventative measures but is not 100% reliable for diagnosis because data isn’t shared in real-time.

Current networks don’t have the network slicing capability, speed, throughput and latency required, and this is where 5G will play an important role. With 5G’s extremely fast speeds and ultra-low latency, home healthcare providers and hospitals will be able to monitor and care for seniors, both proactively and predictively. Medical records will be updated, vitals will be tracked and medication reminders will be automated, all in real-time!

According to Ericsson, there is a $76 billion revenue opportunity by 2026 for operators addressing healthcare transformation with 5G when it comes to preventative, routine and post-operative care. Here are some things which will become possible with the implementation of 5G.

5G will enable real-time remote monitoring 

Wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch and FitBit, are currently reporting health data which is extremely valuable as it helps provide information about an individual’s current health status, detect falls, and highlight potential health concerns. This information is also being analysed by AI-based platforms to generate meaningful insights which can help provide preventive care.

A recent study by Nephron has shown how Remote Monitoring (RM) yielded positive outcomes when used for Automated Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) patients. It allowed early detection and resolution of problems, improved treatment compliance, reduction in the need to travel to the hospital for clinical treatment. Hence, leading to savings for the medical facility and improved quality of life for the patient.

With 5G, this will become even easier. Data will be used even more effectively to help seniors live independently as home healthcare providers and medical professionals will have 24/7 access to updated information. Additionally, as soon as the AI and ML systems pick something that doesn’t seem right, home healthcare providers can immediately take the required action to ensure that seniors can stay healthy and safe….. without any time lag!

Predictive analysis will become more accurate

With 5G, all the data that is collected from monitoring biometric parameters and physical activity levels can be used to help create predictive analytic models. 5G combined with related technology variants such as NarrowBand-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) which is a low power wide area solution developed to improve the power consumption of IoT devices as well as their spectrum efficiency, can enable patient data to be processed and analysed at ultra fast speeds.

This means that home healthcare providers and medical professionals will not be providing ‘reactive’ care but they will be able to identify issues sooner and intervene before further complications arise; in the ideal case, they will be able to ‘prevent the event’!. By proactively and predictively identifying health risks and treating them in a timely manner, the costs of medical care as well as emergency response can be significantly reduced.

So, what’s next?

Both public and private organisations have recognised the importance of 5G and the role it will play across multiple sectors ranging including healthcare. This is why governments, telcos, and other stakeholders are working together to develop frameworks to facilitate the testing and implementation of 5G networks. One example is the ENCQOR 5G program in Canada, which is a public-private partnership focused on research and innovation in 5G use-cases.

At LocateMotion, we are commencing 5G testing for our senior homecare solution. The LocateMotion solution analyzes information provided by wearables, smart phones, wifi and geo-data, to provide a comprehensive homecare solution for seniors. Its built-in algorithm tracks health and activity trends as well as patterns in movement to reduce chances of emergencies such as wandering and falls, while automating routine daily support tasks such as medication reminders. Determining the severity of each care incident, it facilitates automated or human ‘smart-responses’, improving operational efficiencies for homecare providers while providing peace of mind to seniors and their caregivers.

In conclusion, by leveraging 5G technology, senior homecare companies can launch services that can help mitigate imminent caregiver shortages and allow them to operate more efficiently and save costs, while providing differentiated care that allows seniors to age in place with safety and independence.