The urgent teleassistance we need must be proactive and predictive. It is known that more than 850,000 people over the age of eighty live alone in Spain. The situation is very similar in Portugal, where there are currently 10.2 million inhabitants, two of whom are elderly, and Lisbon is spoken of as the oldest European capital, with 25% of the population over sixty-five.
It is always necessary to look at growing longevity with optimism, but to be aware that it also presents challenges and perverse and dangerous social effects such as isolation, fragility and difficult health management.
The red button revolution
Around thirty years ago, the red button represented a great social advance insofar as it made it possible to put an end to the isolation of the elderly, to give more peace of mind to their families and to themselves, with an invaluable sense of protection.
The essential idea of this system is that a button is pressed when an emergency, insecurity, loneliness or isolation situation arises, thus managing to communicate by telephone to receive help.
It was a revolution, there is no doubt about it, but today it is possible and necessary to overcome it. It can be achieved by moving from a "reactive" service to the use of predictive tools, thanks to big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence and all the technologies available to "anticipate", if possible, or detect any health crisis early.
We are facing an enormous journey, since in addition its coverage only reaches 10.41% of the total population over 65, in Spain. After the coronavirus pandemic, we think there will be a positive effect of reviewing this policy by the authorities, which will expand coverage to anticipate health crises and reduce health costs through better prevention, monitoring and early detection of diseases. It is necessary to cover this important gap with technologies that are easy to use, integrated and/or connected to the health system and that generate socialization.
If the essential idea was for decades that of the "button" to be worn, the teleassistance that comes is that of prediction and proactivity, without the need for the "call" of the elder, or having to carry gadgets.
Towards a 4th generation teleassistance
Between the button and the proactive remote assistance I have identified different phases of development. For the last five to seven years, so-called "second generation remote assistance" has been becoming widespread with models with location and sensorization (GPS, panic button and similar). Then, in the last three or four years I have seen companies making relevant advances in telemedicine, integrating it with teleassistance and biometrics (with bracelets that detect and monitor the health status of the elderly and send the data to the corresponding health care centre). I have called this "third generation tele-assistance".
Biometric bracelets and other health alert detection devices have certainly been a breakthrough.
In the near future, very soon, we will see the rise of so-called fourth-generation telecare. This is the attention focused on the person brought into the telecare. With regard to its main characteristics, it is worth noting that:
Advanced teleassistance will ultimately mean a substantial change in service, as it will go from being reactive to proactive, responding not only to emergency situations, but also predicting possible risks to allow for early action. The control of refrigerators, the inclusion of sensors in mattresses, can, without giving the impression of being a "big brother who gossips everything", offer coverage and protection to the greatest, without precedent.
It will make possible a much more personalized attention according to the needs of each person. In this area, it is worth noting that the difference between holders and users of the benefit has been eliminated, with everyone becoming holders, thus extending and personalising the benefit to all members of the family unit who, due to their age or degree of dependency, benefit from it.
The emergency teleassistance is the fourth generation. Proactive. Predictivity based on big data. Sensory. Biometrics and artificial intelligence at the service of a medical and humanitarian treatment to protect and promote the socialization of the elderly.
I would like to end these lines, and I consider it to be fair, by making a review, a tribute, to the wonderful social service that the Cruz Roja has provided to our society with its teleassistance. It deserves everyone's thanks.