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PolyU Launches Interactive Health App for the Elderly

Image Credits: PolyU, Press Release

Primary healthcare is a crucial component of the entire healthcare system. In 2022, the government introduced the Primary Healthcare Blueprint, which outlined community-based and prevention-focused approaches to enhance the overall health of the general population.

PolyU’s School of Nursing has initiated a pilot program of a mobile health management app with interactive nursing support, known as mHealth. This app has been proven to enable the elderly to monitor their chronic diseases and mental health conditions effectively through research data.

The app is supported by an interdisciplinary team comprising healthcare professionals and social workers who aid the elderly, including timely medical referrals, leading to a decrease in unscheduled health services and an improvement in elderly health management.

PolyU’s School of Nursing collaborated with a local telecommunications company to develop the mHealth app, which is aimed at monitoring the health status of the elderly. The app can detect abnormal vital signs, such as blood pressure or blood glucose level, and notify a registered nurse via the app. The nurse will then contact the elderly individual to understand their health condition.

Moreover, the app offers a 24-hour nurse interaction function, which enables the elderly to make a video call to a registered nurse by pressing a button in the app. This feature allows the nurse to provide support and evaluate the elderly’s health and mental condition.

Dr Arkers Wong, Assistant Professor at PolyU’s School of Nursing, led the research team which recruited participants from five elderly service centres of the Hong Kong Lutheran Social Service. A total of 221 elderly individuals aged 60 years or above, with at least one chronic condition such as hypertension, pain or diabetes, participated in the study.

After the elderly participants used the app for a period of three to six months, the study found significant improvements in various aspects. These included an increase in self-efficacy, a decrease in the level of depression, a reduction in the use of medical services, and an improvement in the physical aspects of quality of life.

Hong Kong is one of the countries with the most rapidly ageing populations in the world. The number of Hospital Authority patients with chronic diseases is expected to increase to three million by 2039, which will add a substantial burden to the public healthcare system.

Dr Wong stated that there was a notable reduction of 76% and 72% in unplanned use of health services and unplanned visits to general practitioners, respectively when elderly participants used the mHealth app with nursing support for three months.

This demonstrates that the integration of nursing support and digital technology can help alleviate the pressure created by the increasing demand for public medical services. This approach aligns with the objectives outlined in the Blueprint to enhance the overall health status of the elderly population.

Based on their findings, the research team recommends encouraging the adoption of digital technology for health management among the elderly and fostering health-social collaboration through digital platforms. The team plans to enhance the app by adding artificial intelligence functions and including content that is more tailored to the needs and preferences of the elderly, thereby increasing user engagement and contributing to the goal of reducing public medical expenses.

The integration of nursing support and digital technology can help address the growing demand for public medical services, especially in the face of an ageing population. The successful implementation of PolyU’s mHealth app for elderly health management demonstrates the potential of technology to improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. As healthcare systems around the world continue to face these challenges, it is crucial to explore and promote innovative solutions that leverage technology to meet the changing needs of an ageing population.

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