As mentioned in our lecture this week, at least 87% of people around the world own a mobile device. This is an incredible platform to engage people in great numbers which can yield a high impact. A growing area of mHealth is targeting the aging population as there will be 1.5 billion people who are ages 65 and older by 2050 as referenced in a recent mHealth alliance report. This requires tremendous need for an increase in capacity to reach this growing aging population to ensure their health needs are met. mHealth can play a pivotal role in extending such reach.
An interesting mobile communication innovation I came across is called “Gerijoy” to help with elderly patients with Alzheimer.
My organization is testing out this mHealth technology with our seniors. It’s essentially an avatar (a cartoon pet) displayed on a mobile screen and the person controlling the avatar can be a trained medical clinician. The intention of the avatar is to provide daily interaction with the senior through conversations and cognitive stimulating activities. It has found that seniors are more receptive to speaking with an avatar instead of having a health worker come stop by which they find intrusive and uncomfortable. Furthermore, this allows greater access to the senior where they can be reminded to take medicine or eat and notes are taken frequently taken by the clinician behind the avatar and sends it to the senior’s physician for real time patient care.
Currently, it’s part of their customized tablet. It will be great if it can eventually be an app that can be downloaded on any touch screen device. Essentially, it will be a new challenge to develop mHealth solutions tailored to the aging population due to their lower exposure to technology, particularly low income seniors. However, the senior’s family, caregiver, physician all use mobile devices so it’s a great centralized access point to provide faster, better coordinated care between everyone.