Bots and the Future of Eldercare

August 6, 2020

By Jayme Rabenberg, Product Manager, LyfLynks, Inc

Why bots?

This morning I asked Alexa to turn on the lights in my kitchen, and set a timer for the coffee brewing in my french press. Over the last five years, chatbots and virtual assistants have proliferated in our daily lives. If you've scheduled a doctor's appointment or received customer service on a website or on Facebook recently, you've probably spent some time interacting with a bot. At LyfLynks, we believe that bots are an important tool for the future of elder care and supporting family caregivers. Providing automation of mundane, predictable, and repetitive tasks, in order to increase capacity for meaningful human interaction.

In Japan, where 20% of the population is 65 or older, the government has been funding the development of elder care robots to help fill a projected nearly 400,000 specialized worker shortfall that's expected by 2025.

In the US we are facing a similar challenge, as the number of people aged 65 and older is expected to double by 2050 placing an unprecedented toll on the nation's caregiving resources. At the same time the cost of caregiving is skyrocketing, with the average cost of a private room in nursing home now at over $100,000 a year.

 

The development of assistive technologies is a critical field of investment and opportunity as the number of caregivers declines and costs soar.

What kind of bots?

Japan has been focused on building mobile robots, dubbed Carebots, to help with the physical aspects of aging and serve as physical companions to seniors. The costs and risks of development are high and the development cycles are long for mobile robots. Mobile robots also present a steep adoption curve for replacing companion services performed by humans today.

At LyfLynks we are designing the future of how non-physical bots: chat bots, social bots, assistance bots, and monitoring bots can be used together to assist the caregiver, enable long term independent living, and reduce the cost of caregiving. 

 

With recent advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing, the chat bot market is expected to more than triple over the next 5 years to $9.4 billion. Enterprise businesses have been embracing chatbots for providing consistent, streamlined, 24/7 customer care; as virtual assistants; for monitoring software systems; and collecting data.

 

Bots are not new in healthcare and eldercare either. Home health monitors, patient scheduling tools, and prescription management are just a few of the services becoming available. Recently bots have been deployed to screen patients for Covid-19, and AI tools have been deployed to monitor symptoms and provide automated decision support for busy hospital teams.

 

We are getting ready to launch our elder care mobile app LYN next month. LYN is a virtual assistant designed to help family caregivers navigate the LyfLynks Platform. LYN connects caregivers with services, information, scheduling, and monitoring tools for the care of their loved ones. LYN remembers doctors and prescription information, schedules appointments, provides transportation, delivers meals, provides legal and home repair referrals, and more. LYN can be securely shared with your entire family so you all have the same information about your parents' care.

 

Do bots replace human interaction and other challenges of bot development?

At LyfLynks we believe deeply in building tools that strengthen human interaction, not replace it. LYN enables caregivers to focus on direct meaningful care, rather than spending time on minutia.

 

Developing a successful chat bot that can interpret user needs from natural conversation, and automatically execute a range of automated tasks, requires a tremendous amount of data, and deep understanding of its targeted users and time. We recognize our need to gather data, and to learn more about our users, as we simultaneously address the challenges of connecting a vendor network with a wide ranging virtual footprint. So for our initial launch we've given LYN an entirely human backbone, a 24/7 member care center responding to customer requests, checking in on mom and dad, and actively learning about the services and the needs of family caregivers.

 

What will bots do in the future?

As AI-driven bots become increasingly conversant and "smart" they will become easier for consumers to adopt to perform many personal operations. They will become a key part of how we care for an aging population in the future, ensuring quality of care and long term independence. At LyfLynks we are excited to be part of developing the future of Caring Bots, providing a platform for consolidating care, and a friendly guide through the challenges of caregiving.

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