3 Takeaways for Health Care Providers From Sweden’s Mobile Health Care Units
Thanks to advances in health care, we’ve living longer than ever before. In North America alone, the average lifespan in 2017 is expected to be 79 for men and 81 for women.
With our collective advancing age comes the need for improved health care for the elderly.
Sweden is expecting their average lifespan to keep climbing — up to 87 for men and 89 for women — by 2060. This has created a new problem: How will Sweden care for its aging population?
Mobile Health Care Units
Sweden has taken a new approach to geriatric care, by providing an alternative to assisted living and nursing homes. Mobile care units bring elderly care into the patient’s home.
Each team is made up of a doctor, two nurses and a part-time therapist, and they are tasked with helping individuals who need urgent care but may not be able to leave their homes.
Once a patient no longer needs urgent care, they can be referred to another mobile doctor for regular appointments. There are even mobile palliative units for those who are near death.
This has more than one benefit.
Care coordination is a problem in the Swedish health care system, and this lack of communication between medical professionals can be detrimental to patient treatment. Mobile health care units eliminate that care coordination problem, because they are unable to direct the patient to other care providers during their treatment.
All care is kept in-house, so to speak, and is coordinated between the nurses and doctor that make up the mobile care unit.
Health Care and the on-Demand Economy
Many of the services we used to have to travel for can now be ordered on-demand and, in some cases, even delivered to our door.
Uber allows us to call for a ride from our cellphone, InstaCart allows us to have someone else do our grocery shopping for us, and other sites and apps allow us to schedule everything from marathon training to a massage, all in the comfort of our own home.
This has allowed for a new generation of workers to make a living while self-employed — and the on-demand workforce will likely outnumber the traditional full-time employee by 2020.
Medicine on demand is also starting to make an appearance, from Sweden’s mobile health care units to telemedicine in the United States.
You can have an appointment with your doctor without ever leaving your home, as long as you have an internet connection and a webcam. While it isn’t as common as making an appointment with your general practitioner, it’s becoming increasingly clear that medicine will soon become an on-demand commodity.
This isn’t a bad thing. The economy is changing, and health care providers need to be aware of this change so they can keep up with it. We may never transition to a fully on-demand economy, especially when it comes to things like health care, but it is definitely shaping the way we interact with the commercial world. Health care providers need to stay informed.
Alternatives for Elderly Patients
While we might not have mobile health care units in the United States, there are still plenty of resources to help older patients age comfortably and ensure their continued health. Aging in place or relying on home health care rather than transitioning to an assisted living facility is growing in popularity.
Not only is it more comfortable and convenient for the patient, but it’s also more affordable in many cases.
- Transportation for seniors who are no longer able to drive, or choose not to, is becoming common in a number of cities. Public transportation is being better outfitted to assist those with mobility issues and those with disabilities. Even Uber and Lyft, the popular ridesharing apps, are becoming useful tools. A senior patient can order a ride on demand without having to schedule an appointment or wait for public transportation.
- Meal delivery, like Meals on Wheels, has been around for decades. This federally funded program provides prepared meals to seniors who may be unable to cook for themselves anymore. The goal of programs like these is to ensure no seniors go to bed hungry, even those that choose to age in place.
- Falls are a large risk for elderly patients. Going for longer than an hour before being discovered can result in an extended hospital stay. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cost for fall-related injuries was upwards of $31 billion in 2014. Medical alert devices that can be worn around the wrist or neck help elderly patients who live alone — in the event of a fall, the patient can press the alert button and have emergency services dispatched to their location.
With more than 10,000 people turning 65 every day as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, elder care will have to change and evolve to keep up with the growing needs of this demographic.
Sweden may have the right idea with its mobile health care units, but there are still plenty of options for patients around the world.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that health care will need to evolve to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the elderly population.