The healthcare sector in many countries, especially up here in North, is dealing with a reshaping demography. The growing population of older adults together with increased numbers of cancer diagnosis will require healthcare providers to re-think their services and technologies.
Cancer can occur at any age, but is most commonly diagnosed among older adults (World Cancer Report, 2014). In Finland, for instance, cancer is most frequently diagnosed for 65—69 year olds (cancer.fi). As many public healthcare providers are aiming to improve efficiency by increasing domiciliary care at home, it is important to consider how social isolation can affect these patients. Studies have shown that isolation among elderly is a common issue, and that loneliness is associated with the risk for e.g. decreased physical activity and reactivity to stress (Shankar et al, 2011).
New technologies can offer solutions to reduce the risks for isolation among patients who are either treated at home or who are recovering at home after a treatment period. There is evidence that modern communication technology can increase social support of the patients and also boost their self-confidence (Chen & Schulz, 2016).
Our team recently participated in the Digital Silver Forum event, which also was an official pre-Slush event. Co-led by Esko Aho, former Prime Minister of Finland, the event aimed to discuss and showcase digital and innovation solutions for the aging society. The event brought together several international experts and decision makers, but equally important was that innovative companies were able to introduce their ideas and give their input. Several of the panel discussions brought up the importance of designing solutions that can reduce the isolation among elderly. Also, several of the panellists pointed out that measuring treatment outcomes in domiciliary care will become more and more important in the future.
Kaiku Health for patient engagement
What’s our role in this? Kaiku Health is a digital service activating and engaging the cancer patients between clinical visits and encouraging them to report on their wellbeing and health. This way, the care team receives more information about patients’ quality of life and can act upon the reported data and thus also minimize the risks of isolation and loneliness.
Interestingly, the notion that older adults can’t use tablets or mobiles is clearly a myth. The average patient user of Kaiku Health is 62.5 years old and 95% of the patients using Kaiku Health report that the application has supported their treatment and recovery. One of them is 68-year-old Martti, who recently shared his story with us.