Hong Kong’s aging population is overloading the physical resources and doctors in the public health system.

Smart healthcare to cope with aging society

Smart healthcare , Government statistics project the population of those aged 65 years and above will constitute 30 percent of the total population by 2036 a 61 percent jump within fifteen years numbering 2.41 million, compared with 1.5 million in 2021. The public health system already suffers a chronic deficit of beds and doctors. The Hospital Authority’s 2019 data show the utilization of hospital beds in the 65-79 age group to be five times higher than for those aged below 65. The 80-plus cohort logs a hospitalization rate 14 times higher. The cost of medical services for the 65 and above accounted for half of the city’s total in 2019-20, up from 46.9 percent in 2015-16.

The multiplier effect of an aging population on public health demand cannot be addressed without remote diagnosis, real-time health monitoring with internet of things devices and intelligent prescriptions delivery. These investments are being made by the public health system on the supply-side. The demand-side lags, as aging patients learn to cope with new devices and the protocols of feedback communication. Chronic diseases afflicting younger people compounds the overload. Chronic diseases in the 40-64 age group increased at 4.1 percent annually between 2010 and 2019. Chronic disease sufferers are expected to rise from 2 million in 2019 to 3 million by 2039 — a 50 percent jump in two decades. The HA said it was already short of 260 doctors in 2019-20. Despite hiring 670 doctors and 4,760 nurses between 2016-17 and 2020-21, the HA could not meet the growing public demand for medical services. The brain drain of doctors and shortage of trained nursing manpower continue with seemingly no practical cure.

The COVID-19 pandemic of early 2020 forced recourse to remote health monitoring and diagnosis for medical consultations. That somewhat alleviated the manpower shortage and improved the delivery efficiency of medical care. It saved patients the hassle of travelling to hospitals and the frustration of waiting in long queues when they get there. Xin Mengwei, partner at global management consulting firm McKinsey, observes that “at hospital, clinic, and even pharmacy levels, adoption of smart healthcare is more advanced, while we see a slower pace in consumer adoption”. A 2020 survey by the Hong Kong Productivity Council, commissioned by Prudential Insurance, indicates that 93 percent of respondents are keen to know their health condition; 69 percent are amenable to using mobile apps, smart wearables, and other electronic devices; and 80 percent are open to artificial intelligence for health assessment, monitoring, alerts, and medical consultation.

Source: This news is originally published by chinadaily

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