Woman and elderly mother look at a phone together
April 11, 2023

ISPs in Eldercare: The Secret is Collaboration

The concept of the Renaissance man is not new. Human ambition has fervently pursued discovery and exploration for centuries. But, in that era of rapid technological advancement, being a specialist was no longer sufficient. Over 700 years later, it has become a popular business trend to establish oneself as a foundational hub with a core technology or idea before branching out into other industries to demonstrate a broader level of competence.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have long aimed to enter new markets, akin to Renaissance Men, but have faced obstacles due to their internal teams lacking access to the proper resources, their unfamiliarity with target markets outside of their own, their risk aversion from previous failures, and stiff competition.

ISPs are interested in expanding into the eldercare market as the aging baby boomer generation offers a lucrative potential revenue stream, but creating a unique healthcare solution for wellness monitoring or aging-in-place can be both time-consuming and costly for telecommunications organizations. ISPs face difficulty in selecting eldercare industry models to follow, given that healthcare giants benefit from extensive research and market experience, as well as sufficient funds and resources. Meanwhile, following the examples of more high-risk health tech startups may not be suitable for ISPs lacking scientific or technological expertise. Cognitive believes ISPs can instead fill the gaps in the eldercare market by leveraging their core technology, WiFi, to roll out new services.

There is no universal solution for ISPs to create new services. However, there are core design philosophies that can aid in creating an effective eldercare solution. To be successful, ISPs must carefully consider four key factors.

1. Health Tech Must Be Simple

It is important that any wellness monitoring solution be simple enough that anyone with any level of understanding can use it effectively. Health technology is frequently innovative and evolving, making it unfamiliar to many end users, especially seniors, who make up a large majority of end users for wellness monitoring solutions. Historically, this is a demographic that is less tech-savvy, more risk-averse, and generally apprehensive about the learning curve. Many seniors would struggle to set up and configure new systems and have significant generational biases towards new technology. These biases, such as privacy concerns, can prove difficult for a senior to navigate if they have to interact with the wellness monitoring solution themselves daily. As well, consumers are often looking for a ‘do-it-yourself’ approach to monitoring. A quick and easy setup process is crucial for both seniors and caregivers setting up a system. Lengthy setup times or extensive customer support interactions can lead to frustration. Hence, expedient and seamless setup processes are vital for a positive user experience. As a result, an ISP should consider that wellness monitoring technology must be designed with the assumption that end users need simple applications. An application that is easy to use and set up will increase user adoption, improve customer satisfaction, and therefore create more loyal customers.

2. Eldercare for More Than Just the Frail

Seniors who aim to preserve their independence as they age often think that eldercare or wellness monitoring solutions are solely for those who are frail, ill, or whose health has affected their lifestyle. Also known as illusory superiority, most people believe they are still healthy and active enough to not require an eldercare solution. There is also a societal stigma associated with aging, which can make encouraging a broader demographic to use wellness monitoring solutions difficult. With proactive healthcare models on the rise, consumers are seeing the need now more than ever to take steps towards improving their health before things get bad or when they are still healthy enough to install such systems. Early introduction of wellness monitoring solutions is paramount, as health issues often develop slowly and are difficult to detect without historical data. Establishing a healthy baseline is important to identify deviations and monitor health trends, providing valuable information for caregivers and healthcare professionals.

The primary objective is for ISPs to educate their users on the value of eldercare, not solely for seniors with debilitating conditions but also for those in good health. By encouraging seniors to acquire a monitoring solution earlier in their retirement, ISPs can benefit from extended recurring monthly revenue streams. Typically, seniors only acquire eldercare solutions once their health has started to decline, leading to a limited revenue collection window for providers. Hence, the potential for long-term revenue from early wellness monitoring adoption is substantial. ISPs need to bridge the gap between fitness trackers for younger audiences (FitBit, Apple Watch, etc.) and those for senior populations (Life Alerts, etc.).

3. The Potential of the Baby Boomers

The baby boomer generation is massive and rapidly approaching retirement age. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is projected that all baby boomers will have passed the age of 65 by 2030 – a demographic estimated at 71.6 million people in the US alone. The following generation, Generation X, is significantly smaller. That means the demand for eldercare will be much greater than previous generations could support, whether due to a lack of support workers, insufficient infrastructure, or a lack of funds.

The baby boomer generation’s impending mass retirement will place significant strain on healthcare resources across the industry. Thus, it is beneficial for ISPs to develop services that can cater to this vast demand to future-proof their offerings. Just as proactive healthcare is preferable to reactive healthcare, ISPs do not want to be caught lagging behind. The technology that will be dominant within the next five years may very well already exist; it just needs incubation time to further develop and expand. Therefore, ISPs need to plan for this new technology now by upgrading their hardware, adding new functionalities, and taking their infrastructure to the next level. There is an enormous opportunity for ISPs to gain substantial market share by catering to healthy individuals who wish to age in place.

4. “One-Size-Fits-All” Does Not Work

Every human being is as complex and one-of-a-kind as a snowflake. As a result, their specific healthcare needs are determined by a variety of influencing factors, such as their physiology, lifestyle, medical history, and so on. Even within the same family, two people may have very different needs. A company, on the other hand, cannot create a solution with every possible end application, need, or use case in mind. It is recommended that solutions be scalable and customizable, capable of accommodating users’ unique and changing needs over time. After all, no one knows us better than we know ourselves.

While creating a generic, catch-all eldercare solution may initially appeal to an ISP as a cost-efficient approach, launching a single baseline solution without the flexibility for growth will leave end users feeling dissatisfied in the long run. Instead, ISPs should be creating an initial solution with the full power of an evolving product roadmap that will enable them to build out add-ons that can more uniquely and effectively meet a customer’s needs. For long-term customer satisfaction and future service development, ISPs must recognize that a “one-size-fits-all” approach in health tech is inadequate.

Expansion Is Inevitable

ISPs recognize that new innovation in their industry is required to keep their competitive advantage. However, past failures to expand have made ISPs wary of entering new markets such as eldercare or healthcare. The main problem is that, historically, ISPs have tried to enter the healthcare industry by acting more like health tech companies than like the ISPs that they are.

The principal obstacle for ISPs is the intense competition posed by organizations in the aging in place or eldercare markets that already possess relative knowledge and resources. Consequently, ISPs should adopt a distinct approach to tackle this challenge, harnessing their most valuable resource, WiFi. By capitalizing on their strengths, ISPs can position their new market solutions as integral components of their service offerings. Wi-Fi Sensing is a technology that can help service providers address many of these gaps while building out an effective solution that meets these key considerations.

Wi-Fi Sensing is a low-risk and cost-efficient solution that offers ISPs enhanced flexibility thanks to its software-based architecture. Its over-the-air update capability allows for simple maintenance and feature enhancements. Leading solutions, such as Cognitive’s WiFi Motion, were designed with these considerations in mind. For example, Cognitive’s sample application, Caregiver Aware, Caregiver Aware, is a streamlined, user-friendly tool that provides caregivers with all the data they need to care for their loved ones without disrupting their seniors’ lives. As demonstrated by Caregiver Aware, Wi-Fi Sensing can power an intuitive eldercare application that requires no additional expensive hardware or intrusive cameras. By partnering with Cognitive, ISPs can leverage their pre-existing telecommunications expertise and WiFi infrastructure to create an effective solution that resonates with their customers. This enables ISPs to focus on their core competency, WiFi, while Cognitive handles the rest.