How Technology is Improving Senior Medical Care

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October 16, 2012

In the past several decades, technology has had a dramatic impact on the medical field. Today we can do things that were once only dreamed of. From laparoscopic surgery to artificial limbs that truly mimic human limbs, we’ve seen technology revolutionize medical care.
The senior medical care arena has not been exempt from these radical improvements. Today’s seniors have access to more solutions than ever. It all adds up to a higher quality of medical care, powered largely by innovation and technology.
Here are some of the technologies that are improving senior medical care today:

Heart disease
Heart disease and the heart attacks that go with it are the leading cause of death each year in the United States. Heart disease is a problem that affects, primarily, senior patients. Over the past four decades, we’ve seen tremendous technological advances that have improved senior care, including:

  • Medications like beta-blockers, clot busters, and blood thinning agents.
  • Implantable cardiac defibrillators that are actually placed in the body of some patients that have irregular heartbeats.
  • Minimally-invasive surgery techniques like angioplasty made easier through technology.
  • Drug-eluting stents that help to keep arteries open.
  • A variety of new open heart surgery tools.

The mortality rate for heart attack has dropped significantly in the past 30 years. Between 1980 and 2000, for example, it actually fell from 345.2 per 100,000 persons to 186 per 100,000 persons.
This is perhaps the most pronounced area of progress when it comes to senior health.

There have been many advances in mobility over the past few decades, as well. There was a time when elderly people with certain bone diseases or other conditions could only be transported via a wheelchair. Today, there are mechanical aids available that can assist in the rehabilitation of a damaged limb, and actually help the elderly person to regain much of their former mobility and strength.
Even advancements like the Amiga and other personal transportation devices have made it easier for seniors with mobility-related health issues to get around.

Many of us remember the commercials for the emergency device in the 1980s that featured elderly people on the floor saying, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” Today’s medical technologies give seniors more than just a way to contact emergency services, however.
Today, there exist technology options that will automatically monitor a senior’s vital signs, and that can then send a notification to a monitoring company or even a loved one’s cell phone that something is wrong. These kinds of technologies vary in configuration, and some are more robust than others. This is one of the areas that is still evolving, and will likely offer more options over the next few years.

Remote health management
One of the most frustrating things for some seniors is getting from home to the doctor’s office. They may be content at home, able to do the things they need to do and get access to the things they need, but traveling can be grueling.
Today, some medical practices are offering tele-health or Internet-based health management service. Doctors can use remote monitoring equipment to check a patient’s vital signs, and doctor and patient can communicate via video conferencing software online. This is ideal for the patient who needs to regularly be seen by her physician, but whose physical condition makes that difficult.

Issues raised by senior medical care technology
While overall senior medical care technology is improving seniors’ quality of life and even extending the lifespan, there are a number of important questions and issues that need to be considered.
For example, much of this technology discussed here requires routine maintenance and replacement of batteries, etc. In some cases, these are things that seniors can do themselves. In other cases, it requires the involvement of a medical professional such as a visiting nurses’ association.
There is also the issue of rising costs of health care. Just because these technologies are available doesn’t mean they’re available to everyone. How we as a society continue to try to provide for seniors and still offer them all of the available options is a difficult question, and one whose answers matter a great deal – especially to the seniors in question.
In the meantime, it’s good to know that researchers are hard at work trying to improve seniors’ lives. As time goes on, we’ll only see more and more technological advances that will help us live longer, happier, and healthier.

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