Express Pharma

Technology will play a significant role in helping maintain physical and mental wellbeing

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Technology is bringing about a growing convergence between life sciences and healthcare to benefit the patients, especially for special population such as the geriatrics. A good instance is Onkol, a Mhealth solution which can bring in all the stakeholders on a common platform to improve elderly care. Jitender Sandhu, Director, M2M Modules – Indico and ASEAN Region, talks about the growing role of IoT-enabled solutions in improving patient adherence to medicines and more

How has advancements in digital health and technology-enabled care helped enhance support and care of elderly? How do they help in ensuring a better quality of life and encourage self-management?

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Jitender Sandhu

Many of us can attest how fortunate we are to have parents and grandparents living to a grand old age. And what’s been more impressive, is that we’ve been able to help those we love extend their independence longer than ever before. This will become crucial in the decades ahead as the elderly population is predicted to double globally by 2030. And to adapt smoothly to this demographic shift, technology will play a significant role in helping maintain physical and mental wellbeing.

The elderly can have different levels of ability and having connected technology is a great balancing effect. Internet-of-Things (IoT) comes as a great help in this regard, where a variety of connected devices can help the care takers to be aware about health stats of an elderly in real-time.

Take the Gemalto mHealth hub for example – this smart hub connects an elderly to their family and caregivers keeping them informed of their vital signs and emergency response situation. It is aimed at helping the user live a safe, independent life within the comforts of their home.

Old age affects patients’ ability to manage their own medicines, resulting in adverse reactions to drugs, non-compliance and drug wastage. Medicines management is therefore a pivotal issue in geriatric care. How will Gemalto’s and Onkol’s collaboration help tackle this issue?

OnKöl’s mHealth solution powered by Gemalto’s M2M module helps user’s medical devices communicate with the OnKöl via voice call, Bluetooth, USB, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and even physical wired connections. The devices share readings securely including medication reminders on a regular basis, so that the user doesn’t miss any dosage; and it can also correspondingly notify selected people about status of dosage – missed/ taken. By notifying family members, proper action can be taken swiftly and they can come in the frontline of the issue if things turn into an emergency.

What are the benefits that caregivers accrue through this kind of technology-enabled solution? How does it minimise errors and improve patient adherence to medicines?

The mHealth hub can ease the pressure on family members to always be present as they juggle with their daily routine and busy careers. Moreover, the idea is to streamline health management so that the user can go on living a normal life at home. It is very important that any health solution targeted at the elderly is convenient and secure. If it isn’t user-friendly and intuitive, a device is unlikely to become part of the daily routine. Keeping that in mind all our IoT solutions including this one, are designed right from the start with the end-user in the centre. And for something as important as health, that’s essential. This solution is simple, doesn’t require any outside installer and works straight out of the box.

Generally, adoption of technology is a challenge among the older populace. How have you tried to overcome this barrier in Onkol’s solution? How is it designed for ease-of-use with optimal effectiveness?

As mentioned earlier the solution is designed for simplicity, which is supreme given complexity and requirements of the ‘age in place individuals.’ The award-winning hub removes barriers to technology adoption and encourages engagement without intimidation. In fact, it is a first-in-its-kind solution that is much easier, less invasive way to stay connected to someone we care about.

Your module encrypts and sends information to OnKöl platform for caregivers. Have you considered partnerships with pharma players to use this data to improve drugs and medications for the elderly (without compromising patient’s confidentiality)?

We think the data transmitted by the connected devices, if studied by pharma companies without including personal data can help in improving understanding of nutrition, but again the usage of data is subject to user discretion. Gemalto espouses the use of encryption technologies to protect critical data while holding consumer privacy at the paramount level because consumer’s trust is very important to us. We will do everything to maintain the effectiveness of the security tools necessary to keep information safe and secure.

What are the unique opportunities for growth in India’s healthcare and pharma IT segments? How are you positioned to leverage them?

A large part of India’s population remains underserved when it comes to healthcare due to several reasons – remote location, accessibility, mobility of medical professionals etc.  IoT-enabled healthcare services can help ease many of these hindrances by integrating secure communication capabilities into patient care which can help deliver a superior quality of medical attention, remotely. We are well positioned to address this segment and we believe gradually we will see higher uptake of secure, IoT enabled healthcare solutions.

Any other significant developments you foresee?

Hospital automation is another big requirement for the health sector. One of the applications will be tracking of small and big medical devices within the hospital. These will be IoT-connected devices which will be tracked to protect against theft as well immediate tracking in case of need.

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