Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Andy Grove's Open Letter

Check out the June 11th issue of Fortune, where Andy Grove makes a pitch for using technology to keep parents at home as part of his "modest" proposal to fix the health care system. His comments follow.

"The cost of caring for the elderly is huge and will only grow as our population ages. Of the $440,000 the average American spends on health care in his lifetime, $280,000 will be spent after age 65.

Probably 50% of that post-65 outlay goes to assisted-living facilities and nursing homes. So it stands to reason that if there were a way to keep elderly patients in their own homes longer - without degrading quality of care - we'd have a cheaper and better system.

And we can do just that using technology. I'm talking everyday, low-cost technology - the sensors, microchips, small radios you'd find in today's PCs, in cellphones, and in Bluetooth earpieces. It's not too difficult to use this stuff as monitoring tools. Not to spy, but to detect trouble. For example, did the patient go outside to get the newspaper or did she wander away? Has the patient taken his meds? The same technology that brings us HBO can watch over the patient and trigger human intervention when needed.

A critical step to make this happen is to have it blessed - and reimbursed - by the dominant health-care supplier to the aged, Medicare. Candidates, I hope to see a phrase in your inauguration speech that starts like this: "I will have Medicare define specifications for electronic equipment that allows the average aging citizen to stay home two years longer than today."

As for affordability, Grove claims "As for the elder-care plan, the savings achieved by keeping just 10% of the aging population in their homes can amount to $30 billion a year."

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