The driving force for much of this research is Eric Dishman, head of the company’s Health Strategy and Solutions Group, who says, “Global aging is a megatrend that impacts every aspect of Intel’s business, whether it’s our employees, or as a silicon manufacturer that wonders how health and wellness are going to figure in purchasing decisions.”
His group is focusing its long term research in three major areas:
1. Care Coordination. What does the future of primary care look like in a world where the number of primary care doctors is actually declining as the aging population explodes? Can information technology make it possible for doctors to spend more time with patients and less time on paperwork? How much of the care burden might be shared by nurse practitioners, volunteers and even family members?
2. Communities and Infrastructure for the Elderly. Intel is working with governments to engineer communities and entire cities to meet the needs of the elderly. Much of this work is taking place in the Asia-Pacific region and in Europe. China is prototyping the first of 40 new cities designed to meet the needs of the elderly.
Dishman notes that various parts of the infrastructure can be redesigned for the elderly. Take the case of an elderly woman who uses a coffee maker. If that coffee maker is connected to a smart electrical grid and it goes unused for several days, it could alert a caregiver to a possible problem.
He says a major challenge is going to be how much care can be delivered in the home instead of hospitals or clinics. And while the issues may be universal, the solutions need to be local .
3. Computing for Personalized Medicine. Intel is working on ways to harness technology to build cost-effective gene-sequencing computers. The hope is that eventually doctors can use your genes to deliver individually crafted medical treatment.
Despite its “Intel Inside” campaign, Intel is not a consumer facing company. Its major business is making chips so its customers can build computers. And even in the health care business, its initial orientation has been toward institutions, not consumers. Dishman describes it this way, “So far, we have focused on institutional business models and channels. There just isn’t the shelf space, consumer awareness and critical mass of a wide range of home health, independent living and assistive solutions out there as yet to go “mainstream” to consumers. And the challenge with many of our solutions is that they are about interacting with a care provider or coach like a physician, nurse, social worker or teacher, so having an institution provide the service and technology “closes the loop” by making sure there are trained professionals involved.”