Health 2.0 and Telecare for the Elderly

Over the next two decades an increasing number of people will reach the age at which they need the type of support that can be provided using a telecare service. Most telecare vendors and providers market their products and services within a framework based on the ‘ageing in place’ concept. ‘Ageing in place’ assumes that if a person is given the required support they can remain in their own home rather than being cared for in sheltered accommodation or a nursing home. This concept appeals both to elderly people, as they can lead relatively independent lives in familiar surroundings, and also to healthcare providers because care costs less to provide at the edge of the healthcare network.

The first wave of baby boomers, i.e. people born in the years following the 1914-18 war, dominates today’s market for telecare for the aged. However these people are about to be joined by a second wave of ageing baby boomers: people born in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This second wave of elderly consumers is more computer literate than their parents and has different aspirations with regard to how they expect to be treated and cared for in their old age. The people who drove social change in the sixties may want something more from life than merely ‘ageing in place.’

Each year will see more people who have used computers and the Internet during their working lives using their IT skills to improve the quality of their lives during old age. Already some people who have been exposed to Internet-based social networking have reached retirement age, and as more do so the market for telecare for the aged will become more complex for the vendors and service providers who have to address an increasing mix of user skills and requirements.

Some vendors are beginning to experiment with a new generation of telecare services that use Health 2.0-type technology as a platform. These vendors may soon be able to launch next generation telecare services in a section of the healthcare market where incumbent healthcare providers have little influence over the type of service the consumer has access to. If this trend continues, elderly telecare users will make up an important part of the market for services such as Google Health and Microsoft’s Health Vault, especially if access and privacy issues slow the adoption of the electronic patient record systems deployed by incumbent healthcare providers.

This report examines the changing market for telecare for the aged, and analyses the potential impact of Health 2.0 on this sector of the healthcare market. The report also looks at the way vendors are building a range of remote monitoring and communications technology into both existing and next generation telecare and support services for the elderly.

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