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Intelligent Medicine for Real (Senior) People

Q: “Watson, what is the best treatment for my cancer patient?”

A: “Hold on (3 seconds elapse), sorry for the wait. I reviewed his entire medical history, analysed all the lab tests, x-rays and MRI, reviewed your medical notes and cross referenced all this data with thousands of medical journals. The best treatment is ….”

Watson is an artificially intelligent computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, developed by IBM. It can read millions of books, parse big data in a virtual instant and provide recommendations based on best in class solutions. I’m sure you heard about it winning $1M on Jeopardy and being featured recently on “60 minutes”.

But what about seniors? How can intelligent machines, or artificial intelligence, make life better for the 10,000 people turning 65 every day? Our population is aging at an exponential rate and proportionally little is known about them. The data on aging is only now being gathered. The solutions are not yet built.

Some of the major challenges facing seniors include loneliness, disease and mobility. Computers, mobility aids, smartphones and mobile applications can certainly help with many of these challenges, if only we could bridge the technology-senior-end-user gap. Many are afraid of technology, can’t afford it, are confused by it and do not embrace it. This is the result of a 20-something brilliant engineer designing a product for a 65+ crowd. Could you image a senior developing the latest video game for a group of teenagers? So why are kids (so to speak) designing technology tools and mobile apps for an aging population, based on their perception of what they think seniors need?

Let’s look at a large problem like medication adherence. Ask Watson, “How can I ensure my mom always takes her medicine?” The results may be: “Have her download the latest mobile application pill reminder and enter all her medications into it. Whenever it is time to take her pills, an alarm will go off.” Right, do you honestly think this will work?

With over 4 billion prescriptions written each year in the USA, only 70% are ever filled. 30% of patients can not afford them, do not think they will help or forget to take them. Up to 80% of patients make errors in taking medications and up to 60% of patients stop taking their medications before they are supposed to. Numbers like 10-30% of hospital admissions are due to medication non-adherence. With seniors being the largest group of medication consumers, the health care system wastes $300 billion each year.

We need to innovate senior ready, senior friendly, senior accessible devices and services. Wouldn’t it be great if a home care worker, or health care professional, could visit a senior 4 times a day to provide their medications, explain how to take them, and wait while they were consumed? At home or in a seniors residence or long-term care facility, the cost would be astronomical. We simply do not have sufficient care workers or professionals to carry out such a feat.


Imagine if we could provide a senior-ready medication management device (hint: RxPense) with the intelligence to dispense medications at the right time, certify that the person consuming is the right patient, provide natural language alerts and communications to explain how to take the medications.


Imagine if we could gather vitals through wearable sensors and provide secure, friendly, communication with family and caregivers. All data could be monitored remotely with appropriate alerts generated to healthcare providers, whenever needed, to provide proactive health care. This is intelligent medicine. This optimizes the resources available across large populations. One nurse, instead of being able to see only 5 patients daily, can now manage 50. Nothing artificial. This is intelligent innovation.

Finally, imagine connecting this device to Watson. So now Watson can analyse the medical and pharmaceutical data and recommend course corrections for better patient outcomes. Wow, now that’s amazing! That’s treating more seniors, better, in less time.

We need to invent senior friendly appliances and applications. How, let’s get all the retiring engineers, seniors and bright young designers together in a room, throw some money at them and create a moonshot – create technology that will allow seniors to remain at home 2 years longer (or more), compliant and healthy. That will not only save us $300 Billion annually, but will boost the economy, provide high quality jobs, and focus the world on something positive again!


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