Cracking the Code to Effective and Integrated Healthcare for the Elderly

Researchers develop a three-pronged plan to improve care delivery for the elderly

Contemporary healthcare systems should aim to provide complete integrated care for the elderly, considering the ever-aging world population. Now, researchers have developed a three-pronged plan to improve the quality of care provided to the elderly. This includes identifying and risk-stratifying at-risk patients and their caregivers, establishing an integrated care unit, and developing a digital health-facilitated integrated care management portal.

The world population is aging at a rapid pace. It is predicted that one out of every six people in the world will be over 65 years of age by 2050. This demographic trend towards an older population demands more policies and actions directed towards the physical and mental well-being of the elderly.

However, contemporary healthcare systems continue to face significant challenges in providing complete integrated care to address this aging population’s complex and changing requirements. To overcome these hurdles and arrive at feasible, effective, sustainable, and scalable integrated care models for older patients and their caregivers, a group of researchers from the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), led by Professor Yan-Shen Shan, has proposed a reorientation of the contemporary healthcare system. A short video describing this work is also available here and below:

This project is affiliated with the Worldwide Universities Network’s (WUN) Global Research Group SDGs in Asia, a body aimed at conducting research on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asia. The team hoped to contribute to achieving SDG 3 in particular, i.e., good health and well-being.

The researchers are aiming at three major goals to attain this transformation. First, frail older people need to be identified across the care continuum. This requires the development of practical screening and evaluation tools for primary care physicians, hospital personnel, and community staff, and testing the tools by surveying older people and their caregivers in both community and hospital settings. Second, shared care pathways need to be identified and cross-disciplinary integrated care units need to be established. Finally, a digital health-facilitated integrated care management portal needs to be developed. This should ideally collate information from several sources to display important and complete health information.

To this end, a set of surveys addressing the needs of caregivers and the physical, emotional, social, and functional health of the elderly was developed and utilized. These surveys were answered by over 600 respondents. More than ten integrated care units, including cross-disciplinary clinical teams that focus on multi-morbidities, such as cardio-renal metabolic syndromes, and functional health-based issues, like mobility, nutrition, cognition, and emotion were established as well. “Based on recommendations and feedback from the integrated care unit teams, we also created a preliminary protocol of an integrated care pathway and a prototype of a care management portal based on the consensus of the integrated care units,” says Prof. Shan.

This reorientation of the healthcare system has the potential to enable early identification and risk stratification of older people and caregivers at risk.

Talking about the significance of these results, Prof. Shan says, “Cross-disciplinary integrated care networks and pathways, digital health-facilitated tools and care management platforms linking various information sources can significantly support clinical decision-making while implementing integrated care for the elderly.”

The team’s research has given rise to ten publications so far, and they have participated in multiple workshops and seminars. Their project has been awarded a four-year research grant from the National Health Research Institute, which they will use to further drive the integrated care programs and portal they have developed, while furthering international research and collaboration.

Here’s to a better healthcare pipeline for the elderly, thanks to the good work done at NCKU and WUN!


About Lisa Baker, Editor, Wellbeing News 4429 Articles
Editor Lisa Baker is passionate about the benefits of a holistic approach to healing. Lisa is a qualified Vibrational Therapist and has qualifications in Auricular Therapy, Massage, Kinesiology, Crystal Healing, Seichem and is a Reiki Master.