The Aging Society: The Economic Challenge or an Opportunity

The world is facing with demographically changed, the number of senior citizens is increasing gradually, causing economic challenges in many ways including the lack of labor in many countries and the shifting in demands for product and services. Most of the elderly require special help in their daily routines when people get older. The fact has signaled to significant changes in many industries to develop and produce goods and services that meet the future demand of senior citizens. The health problems of senior citizens are both physical and mental which require medical treatment and care in the long term. Moreover, some seniors also might face suffer from mental health disorders from being lonely and personal matters. These mental problems might lead to depressive disorders which affects the way they think, feel and handle daily activities. Therefore, there is a growing demand in age-related products and services, such as furniture and residence specially designed for the elders, medical care products, nutritious food, and technology that enhances the quality of life and the well-being of senior citizens.

Digital Medical Devices to Enhance Elderly’s Quality of Life

With the aging population, there is a growing trend towards innovations to enhance elders’ quality of life. The global medical device market is expanding continuously and its total value is worth approximately USD425.5 billion in 2018 and is forecast to have reached USD 612.7 billion by 2025, or 5.4% at CAGR in other words. As for the global market for elderly care technology, it was worth USD5.6 billion and will have reached USD13.6 billion by 2022 at the CAGR rate of 19.3% and is expected to be higher along with the growing number of aging populations. In the past, Thailand has been producing medical devices for infection treatment, control and prevention, but the market for this area has been on a downward path. Therefore, for Thailand to direct their manufacturing direction to senior care which has become a mega trend all over the world.

Medical device industry is considered to be another important industry of Thailand. According to Krungsri Research, the export volume of the medical device industry of Thailand in medical equipment and devices is worth USD1.24 billion in 2017. Most of the export products were single-use devices that are not required production advancement. The examples of those products are syringes, hypodermic needles, tubes, rubber gloves and condoms. In addition, Thailand still has to import advanced medical devices from other countries such as ultrasound scanners, x-ray machines and electrocardiograms, all of which are mainly from the United States, China, Japan and Germany. In 2022, the medical device industry of Thailand is expected to grow from 8.5% to 10% due to the growth of the aging population. Moreover, Thai people have more access to healthcare services, from both public and private sectors. Apart from that, a larger number of foreign patients have been visiting Thailand to receive world class standard’s quality medical treatment but affordable.

Fall Detection System as a life-saving device 

Falls in the elderly, the most common accident happens in older adults resulting in minor to serious injuries such as hip fractures or even death. In Thailand, it is reported that the most frequent accident experienced by the elderly is a simple slip and fall. According to Bangkok Hospital, each year there are at least 500 seniors aged above 60 years old whose death is caused by falling and this number has not yet included those who suffer from serious injuries and disabilities. Many countries around the world have been interested in developing device that can detect the falls in the elderly due to the fact that preventing is cheaper than paying the medical expenses. The fall detection device market was worth about USD358.6 million in 2016, and is expected to reach USD497.3 million by 2022 at the compound annual growth rate of 5.58%, according to Research Market. 

One good example of such technology is the product from Xandar Kardian, a US Delaware start-up which specializes in fall detection system. Their products are equipped with impulse radio ultra-wide band radar in combination with the Internet of Thing (IoT) to detect and monitor health vitals such as heart rate, breathing rate, sleep apnea, fall detection and can also be used as a personal emergency response system (PERS) device. Not only can it detect falls, it also has a post-fall monitoring to provide real-time data on health vitals to the designated caretaker too. Furthermore, the ease of installation has allowed it to be used anywhere without the assistance of a specialist, be it at home, hospitals, or nursing homes. Hence, Xandar Kardian enables elderly people, especially those that are left at home alone, to receive immediate help during emergencies.

Telehealth Services: Digital Transformation in Healthcare Sector 

When there is a new technology, it always makes an impact and sometimes completely changes the way hospitals operate. They tend to use online platform to operate and provide medical service through online channels such as Telehealth. Telehealth is the use of mobile technology to build a constant and long-termed relationship between patients and doctors or medical service providers through video doctor visits and remote patient monitoring devices. It has enhanced the medical services and has surpassed a simple hospital into a hospital which really belongs to the age of digital transformation. Telehealth services come in handy for the elderly and the caretakers in terms of shortening the travel time to the hospital for their regular check-up or even in the event of emergency where immediate assistance is desperately needed. Other benefits of Telehealth include improving patient’s engagement, reaching out in remote or rural areas which reduce travelling cost, saving patients and medical professionals’ time and lower chance of hospital admission through regular monitoring of patients’ health. With the wide range of benefits, Telehealth services are very well received. Intersog has reported that the global Telehealth market is expected to grow with a CAGR of 14.3% by 2020.

From digital solutions for elderly healthcare mentioned above, it is clearly seen that in order to improve the health conditions of the seniors, several other sectors can also play a major role in the healthcare field. With the upcoming 5G coupled with Big Data, AI, Internet of Things and Machine Learning, there are a number of possibilities and opportunities in developing technology that can enhance the elderly citizens’ quality of life. Thus, with increasing technologies that enable elderly to consistently monitor their own health conditions, healthcare providers could consider integrating these technologies with their medical services to provide a holistic approach in improving elder’s quality of life. Although it may take quite some time for the senior citizens in Thailand to individually adopt these technologies, healthcare providers in Thailand should be active in making plans to bundle healthcare technology designed as a customer product with their professional medical services. Since Thailand is the destination for international patients who might already be familiar with these technologies already. Not only would these technologies allow healthcare providers based in Thailand to offer their services beyond the nation’s border, they would allow healthcare providers to keep their international patients more engaged and would further helps enhance customer satisfaction as well.