“By 2050, we will see it almost triple – reaching a staggering 2 billion people in the 60 plus category.” To that he added that “we also know that at the same time the world’s population is getting older, it is also getting sicker. Again, by 2050, half of the developed world is projected to become chronically ill”
Philips Chief Medical Officer calls for greater patient empowerment in facing future healthcare challenges
Thursday, 17 September 2009 In a keynote speech at this year’s Nikkei-Philips symposium on “Independent Living and Home healthcare”, Dr. Eric Silfen, Chief Medical Officer, Philips Healthcare, reconfirmed Philips’ commitment to ensuring sound and sustainable healthcare in the future. Speaking to an audience of experts from a wide variety of fields and sectors (including the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare), Dr. Silfen focused upon the complex challenge of providing quality care to the nearly 7 billion people living on this planet and the significance of “empowerment”, in a rapidly ageing society.Dr. Silfen emphasized the importance of raising public awareness of health issues; developing social systems which encourage more proactive involvement in prevention, screening and early diagnosis, and shifting from a hospital-centered healthcare system to one that is more patient-centered.
The Graying Effect
Dr. Silfen starts his speech with describing the size of the aging problem. “We know that the world’s population is aging at a rate never seen before in history. We know that in the year 2000, there were 600 million people over the age of 60. By 2006, that number had topped 700 million. By 2050, we will see it almost triple – reaching a staggering 2 billion people in the 60 plus category.” To that he added that “we also know that at the same time the world’s population is getting older, it is also getting sicker. Again, by 2050, half of the developed world is projected to become chronically ill (1).”
Japan‘s Aging Challenge
Talking about Japan’s Aging Challenge, Dr. Silfen commented that “every country in the developed world is experiencing the ‘graying effect’. But Japan is at the forefront of this global phenomenon of rising healthcare costs, a shortage of providers and dramatic increases in the number of the elderly.” He mentioned that “between now and 2050, this nation will witness a substantial drop in its population as the number of people over 65 rises to 40 percent.” Because of this change, “Japan can no longer afford to accept the status quo if it intends to continue to provide the quality care patients have come to expect. In 2005, the cost of the National Health Insurance plan was 33 trillion yen, 6.6 percent of Japan’s GDP,” and economists predict that by 2035 that number could reach 93 trillion yen or 13.5 percent of GDP.
Dr. Silfen stated that “the first step in dealing with this problem is to make the public (especially the elderly) realize that health and disease are something one must deal with oneself,” and that “through innovation, medical leaders must create a stable bridge (cooperative system) between hospitals and homes to empower both patients and doctors.”
Changing Healthcare Needs of the Elderly
Highlighting the changing healthcare needs of the elderly Dr. Silfen emphasized that:
- While Japan has traditionally had a lower prevalence of chronic disease, as lifestyles and diets change we can expect to see more Japanese living with ongoing health issues. The long term nature of diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, dictates the absolute need for a shift away from hospital-centered healthcare to more patient-centered care.
- Meeting the needs of an aging population could also mean adopting new technologies that can serve as a bridge between the hospital and the home. It can also enable longer term independent living for more seniors and create a more cost-effective healthcare system for Japan.
- In order to create a new healthcare system, the public (namely the elderly) must accept the idea that change can be good and that new technology will empower them, not overwhelm them. Having a home healthcare system which enables one to monitor and manage one’s own health is, indeed “empowerment”.
- Policy makers need to understand home health technologies, how they work and the economic and medical benefits they provide. Most importantly, they must embrace a longer term view on healthcare to understand that investment in home health technology today will ensure a more cost-effective, patient-centered healthcare system tomorrow.
Bridging the Hospital and home through Innovation
Dr. Silfen touched upon different technology solutions that can help people regain independence after a medical situation. According to him:
- One dictionary says technology is “the application of knowledge for practical purposes.” When it comes to home healthcare innovations I like to say: If it isn’t practical, it isn’t part of the solution.” I’d like to highlight two of Philips’ innovative technologies that illustrate the benefits that home health technology is already providing.
- The first is the very essence of simplicity and safety. It’s called Philips Lifeline. It’s an easy to use medical alert service that can connect an elderly person in distress with immediate help, call medical assistance and contact a neighbor or family as well. Getting assistance is no more complicated than pushing a button on a wristband or pendant. Within seconds, a trained operator answers the call, determines the patient’s needs and makes the appropriate calls for help.
- The second technology, Philips’ Home Telehealth, is a pro-active technology that empowers patients to prevent crisis situations. Through this innovative device, care providers remotely monitor patient vital signs on a daily basis with an easy-to-use wireless device.
Dr. Silfen also pointed out that as the most rapidly aging country in the world, Japan’s healthcare system will be the first to feel the impact of an aging society. He stated, “I believe Japan is uniquely positioned to lead on this issue because it has a strong tradition of respecting the elderly and a history of innovation. With such qualities, I believe Japan can come up with innovative solutions for the aging issues currently faced by many developed countries.”
Dr. Silfen concluded, “All of us have a stake in building a healthcare bridge to the future by empowering patients and clinicians with the revolutionary technology, educating family members to provide essential support and getting policy makers to make the right decisions.”
1. UN Report, “World Population Ageing, 2007,” Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division