Reality Check: Cloud-based e-health solutions could care for Brazil’s aging population

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Editor’s NoteWelcome to our weekly Reality Check column. We’ve gathered a group of visionaries and veterans in the mobile industry to give their insights into the marketplace.

Ah, Brazil! The legendary sun-drenched beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro are full of young people sunning and swimming. It’s no surprise that more people are taking care to stay healthy by eating better and exercising. If you think ahead, you’ll soon find a surprising number of senior citizens on those beaches who will also require treatment for various health conditions. And soon, service providers in Brazil and elsewhere will be able to provide an impressive range of eHealth solutions to senior citizens, delivered via the cloud. (You see, it’s not all about the sun.)

Brazil’s changing demographics tell an interesting story—one that should be of interest to the country’s service providers. In his article “Living Longer and Better in Brazil: Challenges and Opportunities Faced by a Graying Society” in AARP International’s The Journal, José Cechin, executive superintendent of the Instituto de Estudos de Saúde Suplementar (IESS) notes that “Brazil is not yet a ‘gray society,’ but it is graying quickly.” According to Cechin, while the average age in Brazil is 27, the proportion of elderly (those 65 or older) is 6.9% of the population, or 13.2 million people—a number expected to expand to 22.7% of the population, or 48.9 million people.

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As Brazil’s population ages, advances in the communications landscape can help ensure the health of older citizens by remote monitoring as part of the emerging “connected home” environment that promises to transform the way we live, thanks to cloud computing and its ability to connect consumers, service providers and a range of healthcare applications. In fact, it turns out that one of the “potentially most attractive” opportunities of all the verticals being addressed by operators is the still relatively-untapped mobile health, or eHealth, space, according to a GSMA and AT Kearney report.

This connected healthcare revolution has already begun. You might have already downloaded a health-related app to your smartphone that enables you to monitor your heart rate while jogging, for example. (Actually, downloading and using apps is the main use of eHealth right now). But when the broadband and mobile network operators start to get on board, the way we use eHealth is going to change dramatically, with Analysys Mason forecasting 52.7 million m-health connections worldwide by 2021.

Technologically, the time is right for eHealth. Broadband and wireless technology along with protocol independence is now at a point where the connectivity and interactions between the patient and healthcare provider can be simplified (and what patient would not prefer to have real-time healthcare?) A number of service providers, capitalizing on the innovative communication capabilities of today’s digital life, have already introduced connected home solutions, and many more will introduce eHealth solutions in the near term.

Remote monitoring solutions that can help people stay in their homes longer—“Aging in Place” is the industry term—essentially use a cloud-based connected home infrastructure to serve as remote eyes and ears that can monitor seniors in their home—and instantly detect trouble, such as a fall. The elderly—and anybody with a chronic medical condition—and their caregivers all benefit. The opportunity for operators to enter the market or expand their role will be helped along by new solutions such as the Home Health Monitoring and Aging In Place solutions that Amdocs launched last week at 4G World in Chicago.

And solutions like these mean that operators can do a lot more than just provide connectivity—the real revenue opportunity comes from changing their role in the value chain to providing value-added services which might range from traditional telecom services of security and data management to providing clinical services. What makes this an especially compelling proposition for service providers is that they can deploy these cloud-based, SaaS (software as a service) with low investment while capturing recurring revenue streams that significantly beef up ARPU (average revenue per user).

So who doesn’t want to live longer under the sun on those famous Rio beaches and under the cloud-based eHealth solutions for Brazil’s population? The question is: which service provider will see the light first—and reap the benefits?

Manuel Briseño is marketing director for Caribbean and Latin America region at Amdocs

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