Already, we can observe the emergence of systems in which demand plays a more critical role. Decision-making power over products and services is shifting from the business to the customer, and the elderly care system will not escape this dynamic.
Technical and organizational progress increasingly allows the individual to determine for himself what care he needs. As a result, the current system, mainly supply-driven, gives way to a primarily demand-driven system.
Therefore, the need to adapt will be much stronger for the institutional structure, which ensures the satisfaction of needs than for the provision of the services itself; at the same time, demand-driven systems will supplant supply-driven systems.
This transition will not be done continuously, based on defined objectives. Many unpredictable intermediate stages will follow one another to bring us from the present to the future.
Status Quo Remains Unchallenged
In this first case scenario, the current healthcare system, dominated by public providers and organized according to supply, remains unchanged. The task of optimizing and adapting it to the technological and societal turn is essentially left to the institutions responsible for it.
As the context becomes less favorable (demographic transition, the situation on the job market, etc.), the emphasis is on increasing productivity and reducing costs.
This increase in productivity is necessary to reduce staffing requirements, as the shortage of qualified specialists is one of the main problems of the optimized status quo scenario. The system will also encourage assistance provided by relatives and neighbors.
In this personalization scenario, the care system is completely transformed. Patients’ needs are its cornerstone, with digital assistants and increased liberties in choice of care settings, care types, and therapies.
A textbook case is the increased use of marijuana among the elderly in recent times. Reports show that the numbers of American seniors above age 65 who now use marijuana have more than doubled since 2015. Will senior care homes shape up to this demand?
Note that reliability is essential here. Many older adults who are very curious about marijuana to manage pain or insomnia, for instance, start by asking how long it takes to get a Florida medical card.
In the scenario of community-based care, the priority of society shifts from economic performance to living together.
The productivity potentials generated by technical progress lead to a society in which material services are provided by machines and algorithms, while people provide immaterial services.
In this model, care and assistance are no longer seen as a task to be optimized but as one of the many forms that individuals take in taking care of their fellow human beings. They become community tasks and are therefore organized in a community way. Much of the coordination is small-scale, and assistance is delivered within existing communities.
Care provided by professionals will remain necessary, but due to the use of robotics and artificial intelligence, in care as in other sectors, many tasks can be carried out thanks to neighbors, relatives, and friends’ informal help.
Health and disease prevention are central to this fourth scenario. The continuous monitoring of biological data and individuals’ activity through digital diagnostic systems allows optimal assistance to be provided and requested at all times.
It is, therefore, possible to imagine solutions upstream, which recommend a measure even before the occurrence of health problems.
These digital systems, which must have real-time access to a multitude of bodily data to issue their diagnoses, pose the crucial question of data protection.
Also, achieving this scenario requires integrating the latest advances in technology. Reliable and efficient algorithms will be needed to process a large volume of data.
Technology isn’t everything, however. Human contact, empathy, and tact will remain essential, especially when dealing with individuals whose biological data provide information that is sensitive or likely to disturb them.