Is the Aging Population of India Ready for Digital Healthcare?

Good health and mobility is what everyone continues to hope for as they age.

In today’s times, good health is not just a prayer. Good health is a way of life which can be achieved with the help of modern digital tools. Are our elderly loved ones equipped to integrate technology into their health care?

Digital is the buzzword for the young and not so young. The benefits which digitalization brings about in our daily lives cannot be ignored. Being techno savvy, being on social media platforms, surfing the Internet and being well-versed with numerous apps is the norm of the day. So this generation that is now aged between 30 and 50 will be more equipped to face the fast growing changes in the world of digital healthcare and artificial intelligence.

As per statistics, in a developed country like USA, 62% of the elderly population (+65 years) actively seeks digital healthcare solutions. 

In India, the story reads differently. 
As per statistics, in the Census 2011, for senior citizens aged above 60 years-- There were 104 million elderly persons out of a total population of 1210 million (8.6%) 
- 73 million persons, i.e. 71 per cent of the elderly population resided in rural areas while 31 million or 29 per cent of elderly population was living in urban areas. 
- 56% of the persons aged above 60 years were illiterate.

But let not the above figures deter you. From the last census to the next in 2021, there will be noticeable changes. Under the current leadership of our honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, who launched ‘Digital India’ on 1 July 2015 with an objective of connecting rural areas with high-speed Internet networks and improving digital literacy, there will be a growing populace of literate elderly seeking online healthcare services in coming years.

Also with the launch of Jio in September 5, 2016, high-speed Internet and mobiles have become more affordable and accessible throughout India. 

Why digital healthcare?

1. Many elderly are reading up and getting online health information from the net either for themselves or for their partner.

2. Elderly persons looking for medical procedures often researched most experts and reputed hospitals for super specialties before undergoing the same. 

3. There are growing numbers of elders joining social media platforms like Facebook. These platforms are often used to discuss and share innovations, endorse a practice, recommend treatments. 

4. Seniors can book an appointment online to cut the wait time at clinics and hospitals. 

5. Doctors and hospitals are sending appointment reminders via SMS or emails to remind patients on ensuing visits.

6. With electronic health records kept by the doctor, an older patient need not carry his/her case file of papers to the doctor. Alternatively, with records in electronic form the doctor can even access the same without the patient being in front of him. Also, children who may be living abroad and want to check on the health of their parents, can access these digital medical reports easily.

7. Requesting prescription refills electronically are now an option for the elderly. To revisit a doctor only for a fresh prescription can be prevented.

8. Digital marketing for doctors is on the rise with medical practitioners wanting to get closer to their well-informed and internet savvy patients.

9. With the elderly population growing, doctors are faced with heaps and heaps of medical data. A company like IBM with its program, ‘Watson’, is assisting doctors with algorithms to sort and read complex data files within the shortest time period. This facilitates faster diagnosis of the growing elderly patients.

10. With digital healthcare and telemedicine, it is easier for specialists to share their knowledge and expertise with doctors working in remote areas. This way an elderly person in the remotest area of India can avail of the medical treatment.

11. There are agencies that provide all day nurses for the elderly. One can search for such healthcare providers online to utilize their professional services.

12. The concept of ‘aging in place’ or ‘aging at home’ for the elderly is becoming more accessible to the elderly. Technology is now available at the doorstep of the elderly; enabling them to monitor their ailments, stay connected with their doctors, share medical records with family members, all this and more from the familiar environment of one’s own home. 

13. Today with the increasing number of nuclear families, apps like Facetime, WhatsApp calling, Skype help elders to stay in touch with their children who have left their nest. These apps allow face-to-face interaction that makes it comfortable for the elderly person to view their children and grandchildren without having to travel miles. This feeling of acceptance rids any form of depression.

14. Health Apps are also on the rise. In India there are over 60,000 health care related apps. These apps range from symptom checkers to those that support ECG readers. A digital healthcare company like UCare, Mumbai, provides the elderly with smart wearable’s and portable monitors to connect patients remotely to their doctors. 
15. Amazon Echo and similar voice based interfaces are being sought after by elders to remind them to schedule their medications and doctor appointments. 

16. With the availability of GPS technology today it is easier to track an elderly. When suffering from Alzheimer’s an elderly person can forget their way back home. In such cases, it is easier for a family member to track the elderly while at the same time not putting a restriction on their movements.

Digitalization has entered many arenas of Indian healthcare. We are at the threshold of a digital healthcare revolution. From digital marketing for doctors to digital marketing for hospitals, from telemedicine to wearable devises, from medical advertising to healthcare tourism, it’s an endless list of opportunities.

Conclusion: Yes, our elderly are integrating technology into their health care.
The elderly in India today are more knowledgeable and receptive to digital communication. They pursue healthy lifestyles and routine checkups.
Business models are changing for Indian doctors, medical centers and hospitals. By 2025, India will have to integrate digital healthcare for a much higher doctor patient engagement for its growing elderly populace throughout the country.

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