Internet of Everything: the key to tackling the elderly care crisis?

A combination of network-enabled monitoring devices, video streams and remotely-connected care workers could help to tackle the rising burden of elderly care.

In a talk at London’s Internet World 2014, Cisco UK and Ireland chief technology officer Ian Foddering explained how a combination of the Internet of Things, data processes and people, which he dubbed the Internet of Everything, could be used to taking elderly care, reducing hospital visits and increasing home treatment.

Foddering highlighted how operations on over 65s had risen by 60% in the UK over the past decade, with accident and emergency visits for the age group increasing by 55% over the same period.

As with many westernised countries the UK is also facing the prospect of a boom in the elderly population, with Foddering saying that by 2020 there will be 19 million people in the country over 65.

“I believe technology can be used to address these problems,” he said.

elderly-ipad

He described how Cisco had trialled the use of network-enabled monitoring devices in care homes to reduce the need for hospital visits.

If a resident needed medical assistance, they were connected to a remotely located healthcare professional, with healthcare staff available on the service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“As a result they were able to drastically reduce the time patients spent in hospital,” explained Foddering.

He argued that using technology to provide home treatment has a significant effect both on patients and health resources.

“Being able to stem and treat at source those individuals rather than come into hospital can have a huge impact,” he said.

Home treatment technology is increasingly being explored for a wide variety of medical applications, including home blood testing, doctor’s visits and even medical marijuana consultations.

paramedic

Networked medical devices may also prove life-saving in some circumstances, particularly where time is of the essence.

Foddering cited a pilot involving head trauma patients, where treatment in the “golden hour” immediately after injury is vital to recovery.

He described how paramedics were provided with technology to connect the patient to the hospital to provide real-time information to the hospital while the patient travels there.

This can improve the chances of treatment success because it provides the hospital with clear and detailed information about the patient’s condition so they are prepared upon arrival. Normally, this information would have to be provided once the patient arrived, eating into the value golden hour.


Body image 2 courtesy of Markus Spiering via Flickr/Creative Commons.

Body image 2 courtesy of pix.plz via Flick/Creative Commons.


And baby makes four: How three-parent reproduction could eradicate disease

Within two years, the healthiest babies could be those born from three parents. Scientists have developed a new method of artificial insemination involving three parents that could prevent a variety of genetic disorders.

The method focuses on getting rid of genetic defects passed through the mitochondria, the energy-producing part of the cell passed only through the mother. These defects can cause diabetes, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy and many other disorders.

To eradicate these defects, scientists insert the nucleus of one mother’s egg cell, which may have defective mitochondria, into the egg cell of another mother, which has healthy mitochondria.

Thus, the process involves the eggs of two mothers and the sperm of the father, which fertilizes the egg cell.

Electron_microscopy_reveals_mitochondrial_DNA_in_discrete_foci

This new method makes the already sensitive issue of artificial insemination even more controversial, as it presents a new way to pick and choose a baby’s genetic makeup. The current mitochondrial modifications, developed to improve the health of the offspring, will undoubtedly lead to worries of a future where such methods are used to create the “perfect” child.

However, it is important to keep in mind the benefits of this new reproductive development. About one in every 10,000 people is born with mitochondrial defects, and the physical problems that result from them can drastically impact a person’s quality of life.

It is no surprise, then, that some women with known mitochondrial defects choose not to have children. This new technology could help them have healthy families without the possibility of passing on flawed mitochondria.

Though the method does not present a cure for people already affected by these disorders, it could allow some parents to circumvent the hardships they cause.

baby

Three-parent reproduction is still awaiting approval following a study at Vetmeduni Vienna that showed the possibility of trace amounts of defective mitochondria on the nucleus contaminating the egg with healthy mitochondria.

Sometimes these trace amounts are harmless, but if the mitochondrial types of the two mothers are very different from each other, the unhealthy mitochondria could grow enough to overtake the healthy egg, resulting in the same genetic defects the process is trying to prevent.

Scientists say that the problem can be avoided by analyzing the mitochondria of each mother and comparing them through alignment, ensuring compatibility.

If this solution proves sufficient and protestations do not hinder the approval process, babies with three parents and zero mitochondrial defects could become a reality by 2016.


Featured image and second body image courtesy of Cary and Kacey Jordan, first body image courtesy of BioMed Central Ltd.