Five questions shaping the future of elder care

October 15, 2016

Advances in technology are creating new opportunities for health insurers to move beyond the role of payer to trusted partner in the protection and extension of our health and independence as we age.

Technology is constantly evolving, and innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are rapidly transforming how we protect ourselves and our families. For example, connected homes monitor for fires or carbon monoxide leaks, while AI-powered home assistants such as the Amazon Echo can provide medications reminders. Similarly, technological advances are also revolutionizing how we care for the elderly.

Companies such as Lively are already piloting integrated systems that combine a Fitbit-like wearable with sensors that can ensure medication is taken appropriately and alert a caregiver if someone has opened a door, while accelerometers can even tell someone when you’ve fallen. These advancements provide health insurers with a unique opportunity to transform themselves from an unpleasant necessity we call upon when we’re sick to a trusted partner whom we rely on every day to care for and protect us.

It is a transformation that hinges not on the ability to invent new technology but on the ability to harness it to create meaningful interactions through a network of care that builds lifelong trust. Technology not as the object of trust (I trust that my Echo will remind me of a meeting), but technology as the enabler of trust (I trust someone is looking out for me, that someone designed this technology to meet my needs, and that if I need to speak with someone to help me plan or to help me understand if and when my needs might change, they will be there).

How do we enable this meaning and facilitate relationship-building interactions? We can take a cue from the advancements being made in care for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s by companies who think holistically about the experience. They “look at day-to-day life and create conditions for residence so that they are challenged by recognizable incentives to remain active-residents are grouped with shared interests in a lifestyle group. The design and decoration of the homes and surroundings is tailored to that lifestyle.” This design takes not just the individual into consideration, but also their environment, other residents and care workers.


Similarly health insurers looking to leverage innovation to transform their role to lifelong protectors should take this same holistic view. Consider not just the policyholder, but their environment, their family, their community, the employees and partners who will interact with them, and then consider what will be required of the enabling technologies to deliver on the promise of life protection in a way that is meaningful.

Next: Ask yourself these questions

 

 

While the task may sound daunting, starting can be as easy as asking yourself five questions.

1. Who are your members?

Where are they in their lives?  Who makes up their ecosystem of care (both as givers and receivers of care-young children, adult children, elderly parents)? What are their motivations and fears?

2. What is a day in their life?

As they age how will their needs change? Where are their risks? What do they need to be reassured? Map this day in the life now and for the future and identify where there are opportunities to enhance and support.

3. How can we support our members?

What technologies can we leverage now and in the future? How will these technologies fit in the lives of our members now and in the future? How will our product offerings change as we evolve?

4. How will our workforce need to adapt to support this new member relationship?

Your customer service representatives will need to become more consultative as they work with your members to create the right care network via the best combination of products and technologies. They will need to evolve beyond handling administrative issues to providing proactive support.

5. Do we have the right infrastructure in place?

Will this infrastructure enable us to support a connected experience across devices and leverage multi-source data to adapt and improve the experience? 

The future of elder care and society as a whole will continue to evolve as technology becomes more integrated in our daily lives. Whether this evolution leads to human isolation or to deeper connections and greater loyalty will depend on understanding the needs of those who will be connected and cared for by this technology.

 

 

Lisa Woodley, is vice president of experience design at NTT Data, and leads a team of digital strategists, research associates, experience architects, and visual designers in the development of strategic digital engagements for clients across industry verticals.