“OK, Boomer…” - Part 1
Aging Populations, Healthcare, Data Collection and Security
The dismissive phrase in the title is applied to so-called “Baby Boomers” and allows a younger, post-boomer class to avoid dealing with their sometimes demanding older colleagues. The reality is, with an aging population the demands on services like healthcare will be stretched, and in some cases broken, and cannot be ignored.
This whitepaper explores just one area of the growth of ubiquitous networking, sensor implementation and value investments in infrastructure.
Our Aging Demographic
The population by age, according to “Boom, Bust & Echo” author David Foote, looks like a bell curve with the peak currently at 68 years of age. The book paints a bleak picture of the “grey tsunami” now heading for the healthcare systems across North America, and similarly the demographics also show that there are only half as many in the workforce to take care of, and pay for, the growing elder population. To make matters worse, our aging population is living longer, is better educated and are technologically savvy, thus demanding better care and intervention as they become infirm and succumb to disease.
The pharmaceutical and healthcare industries identify that the money to be made is not with the very healthy, nor the near dying, but with those patients who have chronic long-term illness and can continue to pay for life extending treatments. With annual healthcare costs in the trillions of dollars (total national health expenditures: $3.5 trillion in 2017 for the US alone) every 1% savings can result in tens of millions of dollars in savings annually.
The rapid growth in physiological sensors, low-power miniature integrated circuits, and wireless communication has enabled a new generation of wireless sensor networks to be used for purposes such as monitoring traffic, crops, infrastructure, and health. The body area network field is an interdisciplinary area which could allow inexpensive and continuous health monitoring with real-time updates of medical records through the Internet.
Natasha Stern and Penny Dash, consultants with McKinsey & Company, predict that by the year 2030 smart hospitals will collect data via sensors and smart phones, thus eliminating the trip to the emergency waiting room by routing patients directly to specialists for treatment. Blood tests and vital signs measurements will be done by the patient. Indeed, the currently available retail smart devices now collect physiological data including electro-cardiograms (ECG), heart rate, and temperature as well as serving as identity verification of the user.
Organizations such as Continua and Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHA) are developing cloud based physiological devices to measure and collect data such as weight, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels thus creating Body Area Networks (BANs). BAN devices may be embedded inside the body as implants, may be surface-mounted on the body in a fixed position (wearable technology), or may be accompanied devices which humans can carry in different positions, such as in clothes pockets, by hand, or in various bags. While there is a trend towards the miniaturization of devices, body area networks in particular consist of several miniaturized body sensor units (BSUs) together with a single body central unit (BCU).
Whitepaper by Bruce Grayson for TEQMARQ copyright 2020