Internet check-up saves lives as new jobs project seeks 'grey euro'
TWO lives were saved after doctors were able to identify the early signs of stroke during a trial medical project where patients are monitored online.
Doctors are able to use futuristic technology to keep tabs on a patient's condition, even if they have not met in person.
The 'Health Buddy' system uses bedside boxes connected to the internet, which monitor patients and report back to doctors. The project has become the centrepiece of a drive in Co Louth to become the first "age-friendly business county" in the country.
It hopes to tap into the huge potential of the "grey euro" -- the disposable income of people who have paid off their mortgages and are enjoying retirement. But it also hopes to offer health solutions that will save lives, as well as time and money.
Under the 'Health Buddy' trial, 30 patients in the Dundalk area were monitored for chronic diseases such as blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Researchers say the lives of two people, who were at risk of stroke, were saved through the monitoring when a nurse prevented any further deterioration in their conditions.
"Experience in the US has found that community-based care systems cut the annual rate of admissions by up to 63pc," said Rodd Bond of the Netwell Centre, which is involved with the project.
A new project called 'Home Sweet Home' will be trialled next, where 60 houses in the county will be fitted with interactive touchscreens. This allows people with acute conditions to be monitored in their own homes via bluetooth technology.
Louth has been identified as one of 33 locations worldwide in the World Health Organisation's "age-friendly" cities network.
The project seeks to identify cities which are friendly for older people through features such as accessible buildings, priority seats on buses and easy-to-read notices.
A business forum has outlined plans for the project which aims to create jobs by aiming firms at the elder market.
"The senior sector is Ireland's most fertile ground for job creation. They have the wealth, the time, and the experience," Padraic White, former managing director of the IDA who is now chairman of the Louth Economic Forum, said.
"Over 66pc of disposable income in Western Europe is in the hands of the over-50s, yet the bulk of marketing efforts are aimed at the 25-40 demographic.
"With this action plan we are targeting new markets and talking real job creation, and Louth is in pole position to start benefiting from both."
Gavin Duffy, a judge on RTE's 'Dragons' Den' and chairman of the Louth Age-Friendly Business Forum, will officially launch the project today.
"This is the future," he said, after seeing the technology that has been developed in the top two age-related research centres in Louth.
"Instead of cursing the darkness of the recession here people are instead doing things," he said.