UAE Must Show Way for Senior Citizens’ Medicare

DUBAI - With the rising number of senior citizens and extensive access to electronic tools, the UAE should not lag behind in providing e-health services for the elderly, an expert said.

Electronic tools like mobile phones and internet should be used for solving healthcare needs of the ageing population, said Dr Ahmad Zbib, Manager, Patient and Public Education for High Blood Pressure Strategy at the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Ontario.

“Interactive tools like phone call, SMS and email can be used for monitoring chronic disease conditions of the elderly and tracking their medication regimen. We have to look for the most accessible medium, and use that for individualised care. For the elderly people over here, I think the cell phones will be the best tool for interactive healthcare solutions,” he said.

Speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the First Annual Conference on e-Health 2009, organised by Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University recently, Dr Zbib said the health ministry should work with telecom authorities and private companies to come up with e-health solutions for senior citizens.

“A call centre can also help the elderly in assessing their conditions over phone, and suggesting action plans for controlling their chronic conditions like diabetes, blood pressure etc.

He said such e-health tools would also help the government in thelong run.

“Experts can make evidence-based analysis on health risks of the elderly. Based on this, governments can modify their policies and make wiser investment for healthcare programmes addressing senior citizens. But, there should be measures to protect privacy of patients’ details.”

The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s e-health programmes help in controlling lifestyle risk factors like weight, stress, physical inactivity, high fat diet, high salt diet, smoking, and alcohol.

“From our experience, we have learned that people are receptive to using an e-tool from a credible source to support their own management of their health and chronic conditions,” Dr Zbib said during his presentation on “Empowering the Public fromthe Comfort of their Homes.”

Another speaker, Dr Yousuf H.Qureshi, said the UAE should formulate policies to offer more cost effective homecare solutions for the senior citizens, many of whom are dependent on their working children.

“Only 0.9 per cent of the Emirati population are aged above 65 according to 2006 sensex. But their number is increasing due to longevity offered by modern healthcare services. So, we are in need of policies to offer public-private support programmes that offer care for the elderly at their houses, which will reduce the burden on hospitals. Studies have shown that patients and family members have more confidence in care given at home,” he said.

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