Telecare is dead, long live e-care!

by Henri Delahaie

The conclusions of the “PIPAME” study conducted by CODA Strategies on behalf of the French Ministry of Industry, Ministry and of the “Caisse Nationale de Solidarité pour l’Autonomie” (National Office of Solidariy for Autonomy, CNSA) have been made public on the occasion of the presentation of the official study report, on the 24th of February 2017.

One of the major findings highlighted throughout the project is the importance of the service offer for the development of the telecare market, regardless of what innovative technologies are actually offered. The importance of services compared to equipment can be seen even on the current market, with € 110 Million for the former, compared to € 15 million for the latter. The overall value of the market however is not growing, despite an annual growth of roughly 5% since 2008 in subscriber numbers driving the market to its current level of 580 000 covered individuals (2016).

Without aiming to provide an exhaustive catalogue of the technologies visible on the market, the study has nonetheless analyzed the extensive offer. As service innovation is contingent on technological innovation, co-conception appears as an element of great importance, as was reminded throughout the study.

Family members and close friends acting as care providers are clearly the targets of these new services, their integration within the information chain seeing no major obstacles. However, other stakeholders, such as medico-social services, professionals care providers, or healthcare professionals would most likely have difficulties in integrating the information chain, on conditions different from their own criteria and priorities. This only stresses the need to further promote and negotiation exchange frameworks with representatives from these institutions.

However, these new services need to be supported through platform-type infrastructures offering full interoperability, normalization, hosting and security functionalities allowing for the correct distribution of all service-related information to the “new providers”. While this will require an extensive effort from platform operators, the phasing out of PSTN will most likely drive these players towards entirely digital solutions anyway.

This is where the French market can distinguish itself from the European markets presenting high telecare penetration rates such as Spain, Sweden or the United Kingdom. The French market is extremely fragmented, with the means in responsibilities from intervention and organization of the telecare market lying with local government (department, commune, assembly of communes).  Even when the local government is not directly involved in the provision of telecare services, it remains nonetheless an unavoidable stakeholder of the process of validation of these institutional services. This, in turn, means that services able to sufficiently monetize the platforms will have to be found.

What can telecare providers do to overcome the delays and the constraints associated to this situation? Europe is not really providing a model capable of answering this question, as the main markets already acknowledge the role played by telecare is supporting home care. New markets, relying on younger populations (the current average telecare subscriber is 84 years old), more interested in services aimed at ensuring a more autonomous life-style will most likely have to be found. Such markets would be considerably more open to digital equipment and interfaces, such as the ones currently under development. If the objective is finding the “silver economy”, surely this is a good place to start. With such an evolution, new markets players will surely have to be found, as at least some of today’s telecare providers will be unable to be the catalysts behind these new markets.

Obviously, when considered in this context, the way in which the service is financed is not at all comparable. With public support and intervention unavailable, senior solvability is the main options, but retirement funds and insurers can also, fully or in part, contribute financially to the new services on offer.

At the end of the day, it is likely that the current unique market model will be replaced with two complementary ones: a market with diverse offers catering to active seniors (most likely 60 to 80-year-olds) and a distinct telecare market featuring product and service innovations that are fully integrated into locally and regionally defined policies. On the long-term, these two markets combined may come to represent considerably more, in terms of value, than the other European markets where telecare services enjoy high penetration rates.

Telecare is dead, long live e-care!

Henri Delahaie is a CODA Strategies associate director. He manages CODA’s Telecoms, M2M and Remote Services activities and has lead all of the company’s telecare and telehealth projects.