China’s economy and society are dominated by the elderly. However, demographic changes are changing the way that elderly are cared for and how they are provided with it. China must embrace technology innovation to preserve this tradition and adapt its delivery of medical care for a group that is both a link to its history, the foundation of its future, and a way to ensure its continuity.
China regards respecting and loving the elderly as a key virtue. In China, children are expected to care for their grandparents in old age. Three generations can live together in China, which allows young couples to have children and a career.
This precious tradition is in danger. The average age of the elderly is increasing at an alarming rate. By 2020, the 65+ population will account for 11.5% of all population. This is nearly twice what it was in 1995.
The rise in China’s population is expected to reach its peak in 2030. However, adults in China are already feeling the pinch. It is almost impossible for them to financially support their parents. The availability of nursing homes and retirement are not common, especially in rural areas.
Due to China’s rapid industrialization, urbanization, and other factors, older people are more likely than ever to develop chronic non-communicable illnesses such as cancer or cardiovascular disease. These chronic diseases account for approximately 85% of all Chinese deaths and consume 70% of the country’s medical resources. This puts great strain on the entire Engish speaking doctors in China system. The healthcare system must adapt.
China’s government has already taken positive steps. It is expanding access to healthcare through expanding its network of health insurance plans and spending more on training nurses. It also engages the private sector by inviting them to create private hospitals and collaborating in innovation. Philips is collaborating with the Chinese Society of Cardiology in the construction of the China National Cardiovascular Data Repository. This will allow doctors to do more clinical research, be more productive, and provide better healthcare for China’s 270,000,000 heart patients.
China’s IT giants have decided to enter the healthcare sector to highlight the importance of the private sector. This is in order to use their cloud computing and big data expertise to provide health solutions. This is a sign of the future. Integration of healthcare professionals and systems across the healthcare continuum is essential. This includes healthy living, disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and finally, home care.
This integration has been proven to improve the quality of care and reduce costs, except in China. Predictive analytics and data visualization in the US are helping to reduce the time spent in intensive care. These analytics combine actionable insights with wearable devices such as pendants for elderly patients to enable health systems identify potential health problems in real-time. Patients with chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) are equipped with diagnostic devices. These devices feed data into two cloud-based apps, which allow doctors to decrease hospital readmissions.
China’s future healthcare system requires more than technology. China, who recognizes the importance of the elderly in society’s life, should seek out ways to empower them and not only manage their healthcare costs. The country will continue its strong tradition of caring for and respecting the elderly if it embraces connected healthcare.