Healthcare Technology Featured Article

April 25, 2016

Mobile Telecare to Account for 3.4 Million European, North American Users By 2021

Telecare systems—sometimes called “people monitoring” systems—represent an unusual opportunity in the market today, mostly because such tools are designed to do that which most don't want: track the locations and conditions of users. In some situations, like for the elderly or those with certain cognitive impairments, such tools can represent an important means to live as independently as possible, and that's driving a market gain to where there are expected to be 3.4 million such users in North America and Europe by 2021.

With a telecare system in use, institutions like nursing homes and hospitals need accommodate fewer patients, which means fewer resources needed to accommodate them. Using both cellular communications systems as well as global positioning system (GPS) tools, telecare is designed to help make sure users are where they most need to be at the time. Should a user wander away—as is sometimes the case for Alzheimers' patients along with certain other disorders—said user can quickly be found again using independent tracking methods.

In 2015, the numbers of mobile telecare users numbered about 450,000 in Europe and North America, and that number is set to rise to reach the aforementioned 3.4 million in 2021, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40 percent.

Making such a device, and making it work, can be a difficult balancing act according to Berg Insight senior analyst Andre Malm. The device needs to work appropriately, yet not look like a device that might be seen as “age-defining.” Thus, many devices are being built to look like everyday wristwatches, or simple wearable bands that, unless examined minutely, look virtually indistinguishable from modern fashion accessories.

In an era where people are extremely concerned about privacy issues, the idea of voluntarily handing over that privacy for the sake of safety doesn't sit well. At the same time, for the target market—the elderly or disabled—there's a certain logic in being able to track physical whereabouts 24 / 7. The possibility of “wandering away” is very real, and for those caregivers who have experienced it, very harrowing. A mobile telecare device, therefore, is a reasonable measure to help prevent such measures. When added onto other telehealth measures, like videoconferencing with doctors, the idea of care from the home makes more sense, and presents an exciting proposition for reduced hospital expenses. It wouldn't permanently remove the hospital—some patients need round-the-clock care—or nursing home, but it might reduce the need, and with it, the expense.

From remote monitoring to remote consultation, there's a lot of advantage to making our homes our sickbeds. Reduced costs mean greater access, and though there are lingering doubts about privacy, telehealth might be a very valuable development for us all.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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