Telecare: New Ideas for Care and Support @ Home

By Puay Tang; Richard Curry et al. | Go to book overview

2
The emergence of
telecare systems

This chapter reviews the main reasons for the implementation of telecare. This is followed by an overview of telecare developments in Europe, the US and Japan. The selection of these examples sufficiently represents the ‘state of the art’ in the development of telecare, and, to some degree, reflects the national commitment to this mode of care in these areas. Countries such as Australia and Canada, Norway, and Finland, for instance, with their geographically dispersed population, regard telecare as a possible technical solution to better delivery of care services to remote locations, as well as improving the quality and efficiency of care delivery.


Why telecare?

According to the OECD report on ageing (1997), more research on care is required because people are leading longer lives. This serves as an impetus for more cost-effective spending on health and long-term care for older people so that they may continue to lead independent lives. The report noted that by 2025 the number of people aged 65 and over would rise by 70 million in the industrialised countries, while the number of those of working age would rise by 5 million over the same period (OECD, 1998). In particular, the report noted that care provision was often fragmented and unnecessarily expensive, which resulted in an inefficient allocation of financial and professional resources. One way of mitigating these situations and a concomitant way of improving care is to look to technology.

Other international organisations, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union, have also been looking at the implications of an ageing population on the quality of care and life (see, for example, Waters et al, 1989; see also International Telecommunication Union-Development Bureau, 1997; US Congress, Office for Technology Assessment, 1995; US Congress, General Accounting Office, 1997). A common solution advanced by these think tanks and international institutions to managing care is through electronic delivery of selected care services.


Increasing demands

Increasing affluence and education on the part of the public also accompany the changing environment in which people are living longer and healthier lives, at least in the advanced economies. As the baby boomers head for retirement, they too form part of the growing clientele that know and want more (see Boston Consulting Group, 1998). These developments are leading to new demands for better care services; witness, for example, patient charters such as the one introduced in the UK in the mid-1990s.

Care recipients are also insisting on more information so that patients and those who want to be more involved in their own health and social care are involved in the means and delivery mechanisms, to some degree. These imply, among other things, that long waiting lists for treatment will be increasingly less tolerated. Currently, the greater availability of information through the Internet and other sources could signal the “the end of medical paternalism and a move towards treatments being

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