The "Silver Tsunami" Is Coming - And Tech Needs To Catch Up

BY GRACE MOEN FOR BAYER

Our five senses are how we understand the world around us. The ability to see, taste, touch, smell, and hear provide information that streams into our consciousness 100% of the time. The smell of trees after the rain, the sound of a live jazz riff on upright bass, the sight of your grandchild taking their first steps … these are the joys of life. Unfortunately for people experiencing Macular Degeneration, the slow dissolve of central sight is marked by blurry vision, and is particularly common with old age.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States, according to the National Eye Institute, affecting over 50 million Americans. By UN global estimations, 2.1 billion people will age by 2050 -- that’s triple the number of elderly people who exist today. Pair these figures with a growing shortage of physicians and specialists and we are facing a classic conundrum of supply and demand. In six years, the US will be down 60,000 specialists, due in part to the shifting patient:provider ratio, but also due to providers who are themselves aging. The math does not add up and in the meantime, we are barreling towards a scenario in which we cannot take care of people who need it. 

 

To manage Macular Degeneration diligently requires visiting a specialist every few months to few weeks, receiving VEGF (an eye injection therapy), taking vitamins such A, C, and E, and various modalities for remote monitoring. Experts agree that this path for treatment may be simple, but it is rarely easy. The burden presents itself primarily in the difficulty of getting facetime with a specialist. The very nature of the disease is sporadic. As is life, which makes a regular schedule difficult to adhere to. Gaps arise and patients aren’t always able to get the care they need. Enter: digital health. Remote monitoring and telehealth technologies are some of the more promising solutions coming up today that can provide solutions in the interim. 

 

According to James Alexander, Director of Global Marketing for Ophthalmology at Bayer, the golden ticket to sustainable AMD management lies within a tightly defined trifecta: (1) leverage algorithms (2) solve for patient engagement and (3) improve patient management flow within hospital systems. “Pharma was self-sufficient for a long time, but now tech has exploded our industry” he says. Digital Health shows promise for patients experiencing AMD and may mean fewer doctors visits and more in-home symptom management. James goes on to say, “at Bayer G4A our goal is to deliver digital solutions with the same rigor we would pharma solutions.”

 

Bayer Grants4Apps Partnerships program is looking for technological solutions that cover remote monitoring of disease progression in wet AMD; screening for eye diseases; novel approaches to vision assessment; and patient flow management solutions for hospitals and clinics. 

Grace Moen