The elderly often struggle with chronic pain and age-related illnesses. New technology from Norway can improve treatment – while cutting national healthcare costs.
We are living longer and longer. That is good news, but it also means that more people need healthcare services, and budget growth may not reflect this. In Norway, this challenge is increasingly being addressed with improved and more effective technology.
Below are several leading Norwegian innovations that can give elderly patients a better, healthier life.
As a rule, when patients age, they need more frequent follow-up by healthcare personnel. For example, blood tests and lung function tests must be done regularly and medication must be dispensed daily.
This can be a strain both for the patient, who has to structure much of their day around medical appointments, and for the healthcare services, which spend valuable time and resources on routine follow-ups.
The Norwegian company Dignio, however, has developed a solution allowing patients to monitor themselves from home – reducing the need for medical appointments.
The company has developed devices that patients can use to measure their temperature, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, blood sugar level, weight, and lung function and capacity. The results are automatically sent to the MyDignio app on the patient’s tablet and are accessible to both the patient and healthcare personnel. If necessary, a doctor or nurse will take contact with the patient to discuss the results.
Dignio also delivers equipment for remotely monitoring whether a patient has taken their medication correctly. The equipment alerts the patient when it is time to take the medication and then releases the proper dose.
The City of Bergen, Norway’s second largest municipality, is already using the solution. Lisbet Mortensen, a nurse at the municipal response centre which follows up alarms triggered by health and safety monitors, shares their success story.
“We had one patient who told us that he’d got his life back,” Mortensen says.
“Once he got an automatic medication dispenser he could manage his medications. Because he was alerted and took his medication at the right times of the day, his health gradually improved. Now he can live an independent life.”
“For us this means that we do not need to involve the home care services to ensure that patients are taking their medications.”
The devices have been tremendously helpful for family members as well.
“Many feel that they do not have the capacity to help those closest to them. The medication dispenser gives them a feeling of security and the opportunity to follow up their family member without involving healthcare personnel. This also frees up their lives,” she says.
Elderly patients with dementia or muscle-wasting conditions must often have constant supervision from family members or healthcare personnel. This has an impact on the patient’s privacy, as well as the time and capacity of family members and healthcare resources.
Fortunately there are alternatives. The Norwegian company RoomMate has developed a solution featuring sensors and automatic alerting of critical situations, which can be placed in a patient’s room or home. The solution warns healthcare personnel if a patient falls, for example, so they are alerted even if they are not there physically.
Bamble municipality, with a population of 14 000, has used RoomMate for over four years.
“It began with a single patient who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The patient’s family members were anxious about leaving them home alone, so we installed two RoomMate sensors. This gave the patient a more predictable daily life and much more freedom,” says Nicolai Welfler, a welfare technology advisor for Bamble municipality.
Not only did the patient’s quality of life improve immediately – the municipality did not have to pay for a room in a nursing home.
“RoomMate allowed the patient to live at home for two more years. And this saved us NOK 1.8 million for a nursing home room,” Welfler says.
Because the initial experiences have been so positive, Bamble is now using RoomMate on a large scale.
“We have installed RoomMate in the private homes of several dementia patients, and we are looking into using the sensors in assisted living facilities. They will give night shift personnel better control and a greater sense of security. Patients will experience fewer disruptions,” he says.
Welfler also reassures those who worry about RoomMate impinging on personal privacy.
“The technology ensures that data is not saved and is deleted after a short time. Nor is the data collected or analysed. In fact, I would say that the solution impinges on personal privacy less than if a patient had a healthcare worker in their room or home at all times,” he concludes.
What is the effect of a chat with your grandmother on her health? As people become older, their social network often shrinks: old friends die and family members move away. This increases the risk of loneliness, isolation and depression – factors that have a major impact on general health and quality of life.
There is no pill to replace an active social life. But KOMP from the Norwegian company No Isolation makes it easier to get the most out of the network one has. Many older people cannot or will not use social media. KOMP is a simple and intuitive social tool that requires no prior digital skills and is designed to enable all generations to communicate.
“Many elderly feel estranged from modern technology. But KOMP is so simple that we say that if you know your left from your right, you can use it.”
For the past three years the Norwegian Cancer Society has lent out KOMP to elderly cancer patients or their family members free of charge. This has had a tremendous effect on users.
“Many of those using KOMP say that it has totally changed their lives. Elderly people who have lost many friends now have a brand-new social life,” says Anne Lise Ryel, Secretary General of the Norwegian Cancer Society.
The KOMP unit is like a cross between a small TV and a tablet, with a screen and a volume knob that also functions as an on/off button. The design is inspired by old-fashioned radios, deliberately to appeal to the target group.
Family and friends use an app to start a video call with KOMP. They can also send photos that are displayed on KOMP’s screen for a limited time period. This helps to incorporate the elderly into the family’s daily life.
The Norwegian Cancer Society is absolutely convinced that using KOMP gives older patients a better life – and maybe even helps them to stay healthier.
“A social network is a good thing to have. KOMP facilitates increased contact with family, thereby improving quality of life. Stronger mental health gives stronger physical health, which helps you to handle stress and strain better,” concludes Ryel.