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Could monitoring technology improve health outcomes for elderly Australians?

28 September 2016 - 11:40am

Australian start-up Curo Technologies has received $1 million from the Hospitals Contribution Fund (HCF) to promote the use of advanced health monitoring systems in the homes of elderly Australians. Could it be the start of a new direction for your health insurance?

Some Australian seniors are receiving advanced monitoring set-ups.Some Australian seniors are receiving advanced monitoring set-ups.

A step forward for senior health

Curo, which has already established operations in the US, utilises sensor technology to monitor the health and wellbeing of elderly residents within assisted living environments or in their own home. By collecting activity data, care providers and loved ones can keep an eye on possibly at-risk patients without disturbing their everyday lives. By doing so, care providers should be able to improve the quality and efficiency of their services, as well as providing reassurance to family and friends.

While Australia itself only has pilot schemes currently underway, the new $1 million investment could give the company the opportunity to continue developing and expanding its network. HCF, being the leading not-for-profit health fund in Australia, presents a significant opportunity for this start-up not only in terms of funds, but in terms of expertise as well.

"We are pleased to be partnering with an organisation that is aligned to the values of Curo and that has a genuine interest in improving the wellbeing of seniors in Australia," explained Curo co-founder Tim McDougall.

"This investment enables us to continue supporting our growing client base both here in Australia and the US, whilst also ensuring Curo remains a functionally leading technology in the senior wellbeing space."

Saving lives and capital

This is a significant step forward for the world of 'telehealth'.

This is a significant step forward for the world of 'telehealth' - health services provided over a distance, used for those who are unable to visit healthcare facilities either due to disability or remoteness. Considering the correlation that disability tends to have with greater age, this is a particularly useful trait for older Australians, making Curo's initial target audience an apt one.

Furthermore, older Australians tend to be plagued primarily by diseases that do not always show any obvious outward symptoms at first. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare tells us that the most common cause of death for people 85 and over was coronary heart disease and dementia; neither of which might be particularly obvious issues without the right kind of monitoring.

This kind of monitoring could also be beneficial to the health system of Australia. One piece of research from CSIRO shows that during a 12-month telehealth trial, elderly patients reduced their hospital admissions by 36 per cent, reduced their length of stay by 42 per cent and had a mortality drop of 40 per cent. When you consider the cost of a hospital bed is just over $2,000 per day in Australia and that the chronically ill and ageing population account for about 70 per cent of Australia's health expenditure, the benefits become obvious.

Beyond at-risk patients

Better monitoring of health traits could be the key for finding the right level of insurance cover.

This is just the start of what telehealth could provide to Australians, however - not just those most at risk, and not just within the public sector.

Better monitoring of health traits could be the key for finding the right level of insurance cover, or even being able to find a tailored product specific to your needs. Rather than relying on people to self-diagnose (such as in the CSIRO study), projects like Curo's could give insurers the information they need to be able to prevent issues before they become emergencies.

Could this be the start of a new direction for health in Australia? Technology continues its ever-onward march, and insurers can only adapt their methods to keep up. For now, however, it's best to rely on the health insurance comparison experts here at HICA to ensure you are getting the right product.

You can call us on 1300 44 22 01 or check your options online.