This is a guest blog post written by Thierry ZYLBERBERG, Executive Vice President of Orange, and Head of Orange Healthcare
In France, the number of individuals over 65 years of age is set to increase from 11 million in 2010 to 16 million in 2030, half of whom will be over the age of 75 by this time, and 13.000 who will have reached the age of 100 (see infographic). This increase in life expectancy is good news in itself, but represents a major population revolution for our society.
Ageing populations put pressures on social, medico-social and health systems as a whole. These systems, largely based on post-war hospitals and care homes are no longer adapted to the reality of today’s populations, and even less so for populations in the coming decades.
Over the past several years, I have led my teams at Orange Healthcare to work on the development of solutions to support and facilitate elderly care. I have a long held the conviction, which I now share with a growing number within the public service and private industry, that the digitisation of healthcare services can truly transform healthcare; digital healthcare is, at once, a catalyst of transformative change, and an end result. I have worked hard to place, not just Orange, but the telecommunications industry as a whole, in the emerging digital healthcare value chain because I believe that the medicine of tomorrow will be network-based.
We have gained much experience through numerous projects and pilots to test the effectiveness of digital services for home-based care. In 2012, Orange became a signatory of the Silver Economy industrial contract, initiated by France’s Ministry of Economic Renewal. The raison d’être behind the creation of the Silver Economy industrial contract was two-fold: to identify innovative ways to address the care needs of France’s ageing population, but also to identify the Silver Economy as a new growth sector for the national economy, where the creation of new services and products is premised upon the creation of new jobs and new roles. We are already seeing signs of this, but we need to nurture new industries, which remain fragile, particularly within the current economic context.
Our experiences in the field of digital health have led us to conclude, however, that the key to the answer is not a technological one. It is, above all, an issue of supporting a transformation process that entails new skills and new organisations. These should be accompanied by new policies, regulations and adequate financing to support the transformation of one of our most important public service sectors, that of healthcare.
While digital services can be an enabler for home-based elderly care, there are real barriers to achieving sufficient scale in their deployment. These barriers have been well-documented elsewhere, but our core observation, from our experience in France, is that there is no singular stakeholder large enough to orchestrate home-based care; care delivery remains fragmented and, ultimately, costly and inefficient. There lacks a single entity with a global, yet local, approach to the delivery of care services. This ‘missing link’ is, ultimately, a personal care services organisation with sufficient administrative scope and financing to coordinate the entire care value chain for truly efficient and effective home-based care of the elderly. A ‘pivotal actor’ that acts as a one-stop-shop for the coordination and financing of personalized home-care services.
Working closely with regional healthcare authorities, such a personal care services organisation would provide personalised assistance services, coordinate care, and respond to alerts in a timely manner, to list a few core services. In many instances, the tasks would be supported and enabled through a range of digital services, many of which have been deployed for other healthcare situations, such as computerised health records, to telemonitoring and remote monitoring.
Our numerous pilot projects with regions around France have provided evidence that digital services can truly help to support new forms of home-based care for the fragile and elderly. Is it not time, given our collective experiences and lessons learned, to develop a new, global approach to elderly care, to accompany the evolution of the professions that are concerned by this specialty field of healthcare, and to create new organizational models that have the scale and scope to address a segment of the population that is increasingly underserved?
I look forward to discussing these issues with fellow participants at the European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing, and particularly during the panel session that I have been invited to speak at, ‘The Silver Economy; longevity as a driver of economic growth’. I hope that our discussions will call attention to the increasingly urgent need to address elderly healthcare across Europe, and to initiate a policy roadmap that will enable new care pathways for Europe’s ageing populations.
About Orange Healthcare
In 2007 Orange signalled its commitment to the health sector with the creation of Orange Healthcare. Today, this division helps all players in the healthcare ecosystem work together, while bringing innovation to patients and an enhanced experience in managing their health and illnesses through solutions such as telemedicine, remote monitoring, shared medical imaging, connected medical device platforms, total communications and information systems for hospitals and SIM-enabled mobile health identity management.