Saturday, December 19, 2015

Loneliness Is Real Killer

Take a step back and set aside for the moment all the typical chatter and story lines about how technology is empowering changes in healthcare. You know, like HIPPA security, health records exchange, patient-centric care, OASIS ICD coding, hospital re-admissions stats, laptops in the exam room – it goes on and on. Not that these are not appropriate matters and issues mind you, but I see a much more ‘human’ story emerging.

I have been a technology professional for more than 40 years and over that time I have continued to marvel at the revelations that are generated as new frontiers are pursued and outcomes evolve. My work in technology enabled health care has not failed to live up to that history and provide such revelations.

What I am increasingly observing first-hand is the human dimension, the magnificence of human response to encounters with technology when it delivers on ‘quality of life’. This of course can be easily seen with the impact of life saving advances in technology provided by the likes of drug treatment break-throughs, genetic therapies, imaging systems. These are critical and vital to quality of life and care to be sure. Yet while we all seem very familiar and comfortable with understanding and accepting the impact of conditions on health such as obesity, alcohol abuse and air pollution the fact is that loneliness has a greater life shortening probability impact than any of those conditions.

In my work with ChartaCares I see time and time again how technology ‘lights up’ people and patients not because the technology delivers ‘gee-wiz’ digital transactions making it easier for care recipients to do things like reorder a prescription and care givers to do billing more efficiently but because technology opens up and creates a new and enhanced connection to life as it is actually being lived. When one’s quality of life is so significantly and positively impacted the outcome of technology operates at what I referred to earlier - at the higher human level.

I see the defeat of loneliness and despair as a killer being achieved every day when I see via the technologies that we provide a senior who wants with great anticipation and excitement to join an active senior group experiencing together an on-line social gathering of friends with a common interest or an autistic or handicapped child break through the isolation in their lives and reduce their fear and stress via interactions with a humanoid robot or family members who are geographically separated increase their daily interactions and increase the knowledge of the condition and care of their aging parents via a unified communications platform. Everyone lights up! Why? As so very well defined by Eric Kim, Victor Stretcher and Carol Ryff in their research on preventative health care, a ‘purpose in life’ has been gained. The correct embrace of technology enables the elderly and those individuals with life conditions to recapture meaningfulness in their lives. This is why we at ChartaCares believe there is no better way to make a difference.