Discover the advanced communication technologies as a source of leveraging wellbeing for accessible technology, and social connects and engagement of older adults.
Uniper Care Europe GmbH explains how to improve the health and wellbeing of older adults at all risk levels by leveraging accessible technology and social connections at the individuals’ home comfort.
The world is ageing rapidly. According to UN data, at present there are almost 1 billion people aged 60 or over in the world, comprising 13% of the global population, and the population aged 60 or above is growing at a rate of about 3% year. The ageing population impacts almost all spheres of society, mainly finance, social security and community services including housing, transportation and care, as well as family connections and intergenerational ties. Being such a significant social transformation, the ageing population creates issues challenging to society. Among them are the following:
- How to reduce the social isolation of older adults? The vast majority (90%) of the elderly prefer aging in their own homes. However, they are lonely, socially isolated, and prone to physical, emotional and mental conditions;
- How to make healthcare and nursing services more affordable for older adults? Older persons vary significantly in terms to their financial self-sufficiency. Some older adults live independently and support themselves with their own income or savings. But for many people old age is associated with growing need for care and support;
- How to improve the quality of healthcare and nursing services?; and
- How to reduce the costs of healthcare and nursing services?
In order to respond these challenges Uniper Care platform was developed
Uniper Care compliments traditional care through accessible, valuable and engaging services based on advanced communication technology (ACT). Uniper Care empowers organisations like senior care providers, senior community centres, and healthcare organisations by providing a solution to improving the overall physical and emotional wellness of older adults.
Through Uniper Care’s unique technology, various organisations can provide important engagement with older adults through recorded and live community programs, educational courses, accessibility to caregivers via phone calls and reports, games, cognitive programs, video chats, and so much more. The platform includes built in wellness training courses based on CBT approach aiming to improve users’ wellbeing.
Technology adoption among older adults in general, and among the oldest of the old in particular, is one of the significant challenges. In order to achieve high adoption rates Uniper Care considered three core functionalities:
- Home platform at the older adult home: a box connected to any TV and boosts the TV capabilities for the older adult. The Uniper user interface is tailored for the older adults. The TV kit also includes a costumed remote control with a built-in microphone and a small web-camera for social engagements and interactivity;
- Service and Care Delivery Portal: a web application used by care providers to manage and deliver the service;
- Caregiver App: the mobile app enables caregivers and family members to aid and assist the older adult from afar.
How does Uniper Care platform work? Reducing social isolation and loneliness of older adults
The population of older adults is vulnerable to social isolation, loneliness and a low level of emotional wellbeing. Technology may hold the answer to dealing with many of these challenges and presents an opportunity for the society to innovate its way out of the challenges that an ageing population creates. Using technologies can help compensate for lost capabilities associated with the old age, such as sensual loss and losses of motor capabilities that can lead to difficulties in independently executing activities of daily living (ADLs).
Using Uniper Care technology clients can connect with family and friends, view recorded content and most importantly participate in group activities and meetings from their home. The system introduces a simple interface that enables an easy transition between television content and interactive content.
The TV kit of the Uniper Care system is easily installed at each of the members’ home, which allows seniors to take part in live video group chats right from their own existing television sets. Additionally, in each community centre, Uniper Care’s broadcasting kit (hardware equipped with Uniper Care software) is installed. This allows for the opportunity to broadcast existing activities to participants at home.
As a result, the senior participants viewing from home can see, hear, and talk with one another during classes in a discussion format. Thanks to the unique services provided by Uniper Care, seniors are able to actively participate through live discussions, classes, trivia, music, tours, health advice (like how to self-manage chronic disease) and physical exercise.
As an example, the program for the creation of virtual senior centre communities launched by the Israeli Ministry of Welfare in co-operation with Uniper Care in 2017 has shown the following results:
- 81% of participants reported a reduction in their feeling of isolation;
- 95% reported an increase in their connection to the senior community centre. The program successfully strengthened the relationship between the centre and its members, as 70% reported their social life was more well-rounded and fulfilling. Excitingly, new 1:1 connections were also created by program participants;
- 97% reported no assistance was needed to successfully operate the system. 10% of participants were able to use the in-home web-based application of Uniper Care;
- 88% reported an increase in their quality of life.
The engagement of participants indicated that 70% of weekly active users with a stickiness ratio of 43%. These results are considered very high, and similar to commonly used services like Netflix. This indicates that every participant used the system every 2 days on average for almost an hour.
Improving the quality of healthcare and making it more affordable
The growing number and proportion of older adults in the population stresses the healthcare institutions as they need to meet the growing demands. According to the WHO report of 2015, despite the impending increased need for care, older adults use health services significantly less often than younger adults. Often, the lower rates of health care utilisation among older persons reflect inadequacies in the availability or delivery of care, or structural barriers that prevent older persons from utilising the care they need.
The Uniper Care platform connects older adults to doctors, social workers and care specialists from the comfort of their home. A person easily and simply reaches a doctor on duty by means of a call or live video call (e.g. family doctor, psychologist, neurologist). In the context of virtual visits, a wide variety of health services (medical and therapeutic) can be availed.
In particular, the common program of the Israeli Ministry of Welfare in cooperation with Uniper Care has indicated the following benefits:
- The senior centre started to use Uniper Care’s on demand wellness content within the activity rooms to deliver beneficial educational sessions and lessons to members coming to the senior centre;
- Senior centre volunteers used the program to virtually visit senior centre’s members;
- The program synergised senior community centres located in different parts of the country. Uniper’s Care system allowed them to share live content, benefit from each other’s content and even to generate a virtual discussion among leaders of various senior community centres to share insights, and best practices;
- Senior centre leadership and wellness specialists embraced the program, thus extending the senior centre’s offerings, attracting new members, and breaking prior limitations of their former programs. The program created a spirit of innovation among senior centre leaders;
- The program attracted new members to the senior community centres – older adults that did not attend the centre previously.
Besides, through this feedback between generating data, evaluating, and continually servicing customers, Uniper Care can take a big step toward personalised medicine or personalised medical services. Therefore, medication management can be implemented into the platform, reducing the costs on healthcare and nursing services.
As in many cases an older adult can reach a doctor on duty directly by means of a call or live video chat directly from home, the costs of an outpatient medical visit can be spared. In addition, video consultations can be recorded and analysed or evaluated to improve operations and services, generate data and thereby reduce costs and generate additional revenue. All of these measures can reduce the cost of providing services for insurers in the context of prevention.
Uniper Care helps to shorten the rehabilitation phases of patients after illnesses and to simplify the participation in their social life
With Uniper Care as a new technology for communication and diagnostics, costs for inpatient and social services can be significantly reduced. Furthermore, there are insurance dependent, different packages for prevention and fitness programs. The private health insurers usually provide a web portal, which offers customers access to personal documents such as policies, details about service provision and billing. These web portals offer no special services in the form of prevention, for example.
By offering preventative services, the cost of providing outpatient and inpatient services could be reduced. For example in the case of a client with previous cardiovascular disease and inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation, services could be provided for precisely this indication, such as cardiovascular specific training videos to achieve a healthy lifestyle, which can be accessed on demand via the Uniper Care in-home platform, in the form of live group training specifically for this indication.
The challenge in interpreting the success that the system had on improving wellbeing lies in the fact that the system is comprised of different components. The system is not solely dependent on the use of technology, but rather relies on the live content and community aspects of the care service provider that it serves. The strength of the system is in making ‘real’ connections, people and social situations accessible to those who are permanently or temporarily homebound.
Please note, this article will appear in issue 10 of Health Europa Quarterly, which will be available to read in July 2019.