Last week I was at Hyderabad for a conference where the focus was on the elderly. India has roughly 120-130 million citizens above the age of 60, and this number is going to rise further due to better healthcare facilities and greater awareness of health. I also got a chance to visit my aunt, who had just recovered from fluid in the lungs. The whole visit to Hyderabad was an eye-opener for elderly care. I think we have a serious challenge in this space and currently, we have more questions than answers.

During the conference, I spent some time connecting with other healthcare professionals like Varma from Intel Health Innovation Group and Vikas Bhalla from Philips. I also had the opportunity to lead a panel discussion on how technology is helping increase access for senior citizens.

In the panel with me were, Dr. Mahesh Joshi, CEO Apollo Homecare, Vikas Bhalla – Director (Ultrasound,) Philips India and Rajagopal G – Founder CEO, KITES Senior Care. Raj and Dr. Joshi have worked extensively in senior care, both at the hospital level and services. The crux of the discussion was the breakdown of the family system that has led to a serious problem, with regards to caring for the elderly. This is more of a social problem. But it gets compounded by the fact that there is no one to care for the elderly. No one to care includes no one to monitor if they have taken their medicines on time or if they are keeping up their doctor’s appointment.

Also, we just don’t have the right number of qualified people to care for the elderly. Medical and Nursing schools are producing professionals who mostly cater to emergency cases and those that need chronic conditions. We are grossly under-equipped to take care of the physical and mental wellbeing.

To add to this we just don’t have the process in place to take into account, continuous monitoring using wearable devices. Also, there is no structure to incorporate that data into the health data to make the right decisions.

While there are many questions there have been some efforts in this space. A leading hospital in Bangalore is working on a model for remote patient monitoring of senior citizens at an old age home.

Gurgaon based Suvida is another venture in this direction where the Suvida Care Manager accompanies the elderly care recipient to the medical facility, takes detailed notes, including a personalized Visit Summary, and accompanies the care recipient back home, Suvida to become the first end-to-end medical coordination company, with a built-in unified user-first EMR (electronic medical record) system, so users don’t have to depend on individual medical facilities for their records.

While these are all steps in the right direction, the scale is clearly not enough to meet the demands of the nation. So the question to you is, is India really taking care of its senior citizens?

Dr Vikram Venkateswaran

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