Growing senior care market offers opportunity for digital health

By Dave Muoio

Increasing adoption of technology, the rise of remote care, and a growing number of smart living services available to the mass market are among the several ongoing trends transforming aging care, according to a newly released report from HealthXL and AARP.

These developments and others provide players inside and out of healthcare a clear opportunity to improve the convenience and clinical outcomes of senior home living. However, the authors of the report wrote, to do so will require these players to more directly engage with seniors and their caregivers, design targeted offerings that are easy to use for any age group, and investigate alternative value and payment models.

“More innovators and investors are starting to realize the longer-term impact of the underlying demographic shifts that are occurring — not just in the US but globally,” Julie Carty, chief operating officer at HealthXL and one of the report’s coauthors, told MobiHealthNews. “In addition, aging solutions are being redefined to include everyday technology solutions (e.g., Lyft, BlueApron, Next, etc.) that enable a more independent and connected way of living, thereby expanding the universe of solutions that may have an impact.”

Although the convenience and ubiquity of these well-known offerings provide clear opportunities for seniors hoping to stay out of a care center, many of the larger names focus their marketing efforts on younger demographics, the authors wrote. Better acknowledging this growing senior market in promotional messaging and product design can lead to a substantial market opportunity, and help enable more seniors to remain at home. Conversely, new digital offerings targeting seniors that come from the healthcare space — including telehealth, medication management products, and care planning platforms — should take a cue from the mass market products and design products that stressing convenience.

“There is an increasing understanding that applying universal design principles to many product categories can ensure uptake by many segments of the population, including seniors,” coauthor Carlos Rodarte, founder and managing director of Volar Health and a HealthXL advisor, told MobiHealthNews.

So far, a substantial amount of money coming from the larger investment firms has been pumped into products with broad applications, often targeting multiple diseases or demographics, the authors noted. With senior care, however, there is still a clear market for more focused applications, so long as it offers a clear value proposition. Often, this value doesn’t always manifest as direct reimbursement, they noted, with many products requiring pilots or other investigations to demonstrate value through medication adherence, hospital readmissions, or other outcomes.

With this in mind, the report’s authors advised entrepreneurs and innovators to focus on clarifying their product’s distribution and revenue model when seeking investment, and to pursue strategic partnerships with professional organizations, health systems, payers, or others within the senior care ecosystem.

“As with many digital remote care solutions, a big concern is ensuring that the payment models follow suit and incentivize models of care that keep patients out of the hospital,” Rodarte said. “At a practical level, we also have to guard against situations where we assume that because we now enable remote care that the 'job' is done. In reality, these shifts mark the beginning of a new way of engaging with seniors in our communities.”