Cognitive Impairment: A Growing Problem, A Growing Market

Dr. Deborah Blacker | Photo courtesy of HSPH

Dr. Deborah Blacker | Photo courtesy of HSPH

The spectrum of cognitive impairment is broad.  On one end there is mild cognitive impairment (MCI)—subtle changes in memory or thinking skills which many write-off as a regular part of the aging process—and on the other end there is dementia, which often demands around-the-clock care.

Dementia affects approximately 2.4 to 5.5 million Americans, and estimates of the prevalence of MCI range widely, from 3% to 42% in adults aged 65 years and older. “The numbers are really large across the spectrum” says Dr. Rebecca Blacker, a geriatric psychiatrist and Director of the Gerontology Research Unit at MGH and a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “The number of people with mild memory loss is exquisitely sensitive to how you define it, but it’s still enormous, no matter how you define it.”

To address this broad spectrum of cognitive impairment, Blacker points to a similarly broad range of technology enabled solutions to help patients and their caregivers. These include:

  • Diagnostic tools and tests for early detection of cognitive impairment.
  • Monitoring apps and devices that help caregivers stay connected to aging loved ones
  • Apps and platforms that aim to improve cognition or prevent cognitive decline by encouraging cognitive activity and exercise
  • Systems intended to help patients coping with memory loss—such as medication adherence apps or tracking devices for belongings

The problem—and the market—is huge, and there are many solutions that have yet to be developed. “There are a lot of technologies out there,” says Blacker “But what is it that we haven’t yet thought of?”

That’s where you come in. Medstro and MedTech Boston invite you to submit to our latest innovation challenge sponsored by Partners Connected Health: “The Fit Mind: Supporting Cognitive Function as we Age.”

We’re looking for connected health solutions that address this broad problem—whether you want to help primary care physicians detect cognitive decline at the earliest possible moment, or enable seniors age-in-place safely until the last possible moment—we want to hear from you.

Abigail Ballou

Abigail Ballou

    Abby Ballou is the managing editor of MedTech Boston. She has a B.A. and M.Phil in English literature from NYU and the CUNY Graduate Center, respectively. When she isn't writing and editing for MedTech Boston, Abby enjoys reading, rock climbing, watching classic movies and listening to opera.

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