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Healthcare Technology Public Health

Is India taking care of its senior citizens

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?

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Public Health

Right nutrition is the key to the health of senior citizens in India

As the years roll by, life seems to go full circle, and we find ourselves taking care of and worrying about those parents and elderly relatives who took care of and worried about us in our childhood. Ironically, one of the biggest individual concerns also goes full circle – trying to encourage them to eat the right things and get all the nutrients they need. Recent research published by Gauhati Medical College provided the shocking statistic that 15 percent of 360 senior citizens assessed in the study were suffering from malnutrition.

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Healthcare Delivery

Senior citizens need empowerment to manage their health

 

India’s success in increasing life expectancy has led to a larger number of the elderly in the country. The Registrar General of India forecasts the share of senior citizens (age 60 years and above) in the total population to rise from 6.9% in 2001 to 12.4% in 2026. With the golden years, comes the risk of falling prey to lifestyle diseases. Diabetes, Hypertension, Cardiovascular diseases, Arthritis, Obesity, Osteoporosis and a host of other lifestyle diseases are quite common as people move into their late 50’s and early 60’s. Therefore, visiting the doctor for a regular health check-up becomes important in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and effectively plan for any unforeseen medical emergency.

At Healthcare India, we believe that the future healthcare models will be built on technology. Senior citizens will be leveraging digital and other advanced systems to manage their health at home. Hospitals will continue to be responsible for monitoring care and will focus heavily on Emergency Care, Acute Care, Invasive Surgeries and on Intensive Care. A few home health models are already operational and have been covered by Dr Sumeet Kad in a previous post.

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Columbia Asia  is one of the leading hospital chains in India and they are probably one of the first to use 100 % FDI in the Industry. They continue to work with Senior Citizens and this week they launched Senior Citizen Program to cater to the special needs of the senior citizens. With Christmas round the corner, over 29 senior citizens gathered at the hospital campus to fill their day with merriment as the hospital organized a Christmas Carol performance followed by a talk on health issues addressing the senior citizens.

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“The program is to reassure the senior citizens facing chronic diseases like diabetes, heart ailments and arthritis, and help them manage other lifestyle disorders without compromising on the quality of life. While elders require one’s comforting touch and care, they also need daily medical care including routine check-ups and other timely health related services,” said Dr. Kanchan Sanyal, Chief of Medical Services, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwanthpur.

 

On the occasion senior citizens and doctors interacted candidly and discussed various health related issues plaguing senior citizens. The program will also provide senior citizens with a single point of contact at the hospital thus making their hospital trips hassle free. A number of programs specific to senior citizens were launched. Also, every month talks addressing various issues related to senior citizens will be organized.

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It is difficult to predict quality of life for an individual. Health is determined by many factors, including genetics, social factors, nutrition, habits, among others. A recent study by researchers at Oxford predicted that certain sports are better at increasing longevity as compared to the others. So may be public health programs should focus on incorporating sports into their programs.

In conclusion, Senior Citizens need more than visits to hospitals when things go wrong. They need regular management. We believe that initiatives like the ones taken by Columbia Asia are steps in the right direction.