“Cyborgs” makes you think of science fiction creatures. You probably picture people whose abilities are extended beyond normal human limits by technological enhancements built right into the the body. Or maybe you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to save Sarah Conner.
But what if it’s true? What if we could help people overcome their physical limits using enabling technology? What if the elderly and disabled could extend their independence, live in their homes, stay healthy and active, simply using technology?
It’s not a far-fetched, sci-fi fantasy anymore. People really can, and do, use technology to improve lives and not just to help with superhuman feats, but to assist with everyday tasks, and to maintain independence.
What’s even better is that the technology doesn’t have to be built into their bodies to be effective.
“There are strong forces against changing established business models. It’s hard to change what’s been working for businesses.” – Charlie Hillman
GrandCare’s founder and CEO Charlie Hillman was among a panel of experts on aging, healthcare, and technology, who talked about exactly that topic last week at the Louisville Innovation Summit. The presentation, called “Senior Cyborgs and the Rise of Digital Health,” was a discussion about the types of technology currently available to help seniors live better lives, as well as the direction the industry is moving, and how to motivate those who care for seniors to see the possibilities.
Other experts on the panel included Laura Mitchell, founder of Digital Health & marketing firm Laura Mitchell Consulting, Norrie Daroga, founder of iDAvatars, and Richard Staynings, cybersecurity expert at Cisco.
The panel was covered by the publication TechRepublic, which asked the question: “If we know the tech works, why isn’t it seamlessly integrated into senior living facilities, hospitals, etc.?”
It’s an important question, because the powerful assistive technologies can only help seniors who use them.
“If people don’t embrace it,” Hillman said, “it’s likely to fail.”
Of course, seniors can only use the technology if it’s available on the market. And sometimes the issue is that the technology, even when it exists and is proven, isn’t made available.
“There are strong forces against changing established business models,” Hillman said. “It’s hard to change what’s been working for businesses.”
The article also quotes Staynings, who suggested that the US is behind the rest of the world in how it approaches healthcare payment. As a result the incentives for assistive technology aren’t as strong as they should be. The health providers who could be recommending technology to their patients don’t have a strong incentive to do so.
“The US is about 10 years behind the rest of developed world in [its] approach to telehealth and telemedicine,” said Staynings, “which is a more efficient way to deliver care to older adults.” The payer model, he said, is “1940’s based–very out of date.” Pay-by-performance, in which doctors are rewarded for having their patients reach certain health goals, rather than simply by the visits or procedures performed, is not yet widely implemented.
As powerful as the technology is, the panelists all agreed that healthcare will never be about the technology, about the next cool invention. The technology isn’t important for its own sake. “It’s about providing value to patients.”