You need fast and secure internet for digital home care

AMSTELVEEN More and more home care organizations are introducing image care. Clients receive a tablet from the home care organization for home use. Experts warn that a fast, stable, and secure Internet connection is essential, but that’s far from self-evident. This is the second part of a series on new technologies in elderly care from Amstelveen.

What is really needed in the field of the Internet if you receive care at home through a tablet from the home care organization? That depends on how stable the Wi-Fi network is at home, how many Internet applications are being used at the same time, and how fast the Internet connection is. In general, it is assumed that a minimum of 5 Mbit/s is required for video calls.

Jelle Verweij is a consultant at Stratix, an independent research agency in the field of communication infrastructures and services. “5 Mb/s is easily achieved with a fiber optic or cable internet connection. But with a DSL (copper) connection, especially if the distance to the local exchange is great, video calls are a problem.”

OPTICAL FIBER A fast Internet connection is important for those receiving imaging care from a home care organization. With fiber optic connection, the speed is good. Right now, 11 percent of households in Amstelveen have Internet access via fiber optics. That is about to change. In the course of this year, two parties will install fiber optics on behalf of the municipality: Getnet in the peripheral area and KPN in the center of Amstelveen. KPN says it will give 37,000 (of 43,000) homes the opportunity to connect to fiber. This does not mean that everyone uses the possibility of fiber optics. The choice of a fiber optic connection and, subsequently, the choice to take out a subscription is up to the residents themselves. Stratix research shows that older people don’t always recognize the importance of a fast internet connection. They also make little use of bandwidth-hungry services like gaming or streaming multiple channels at the same time. Also, getting a subscription over fiber optics can be more expensive than the current connection, and switching is experienced as “a huge hassle.”

SECURE CONNECTION In addition to internet speed, stability and security are also important. A wired home network to a computer is the most secure and reliable connection method. Verweij: “A WiFi connection can have ‘cures,’ and instability is simply unattainable with certain healthcare technology. Also, a WiFi connection is easier to hack.”

But the care of the screen is usually given through a tablet and that does not have a cable. “Because you can’t connect tablets to a wired network, it’s nice to be able to fall back to a computer screen with a wired connection,” says Verweij, “in case WiFi goes down.” According to Verweij, a wired network is important, for example, for chronically ill patients who have regular contact with healthcare providers through imaging care. So it’s annoying if the connection doesn’t work properly. “Certainly among older people, who often don’t know how to reset a router, for example, which fixes errors in the Wi-Fi connection.”

A Wi-Fi connection can have “cures” and, with some instability in healthcare technology, it’s simply not affordable.GOOD PASSWORD Fortunately, home care organizations help their clients with internet connection when they start using image care. For example, Zonnehuisgroep Amstelland first checks whether the customer has an Internet connection with Image Care. If there is, the internet speed is checked and if it is too low or if there is only a good internet connection in a certain place in the house, Zonnehuisgroep Amstelland provides a ‘mifi router’. That’s a little box that you plug into the socket and set up a 4G connection through the phone provider’s network. Customers only need a SIM card with a data plan. Even if a client does not have the Internet at all, such a router is used. Amstelring is currently testing a multi-controller to be placed in the meter cabinet if the Internet connection needs to be strengthened. Verweij understands why healthcare organizations use these devices. It’s easy to use, installs quickly, and isn’t that expensive. Whether it’s also safe, he says, depends on the facility. “An installer should provide a good password on login and not an easy-to-guess default password like ‘admin’.”

ENOUGH CHOICE The community also plays a role in this story. The municipality must ensure that people can continue to live in their homes for as long as possible and provides financial support for this through the Social Support Law (Wmo). According to Councilor for Care and Welfare Marijn van Ballegooijen, the municipality has no plans to contribute to the Internet connection of people receiving digital home care. “Seniors have many options when it comes to choosing an Internet connection. If there are specific questions about connecting to the Internet, you can contact the library or the Amstelland Seniors Computer Club. In addition, the question is whether ultra-fast Internet is necessary for the applications used by the elderly. During the corona crisis, we gave older people with dementia a tablet so they could call family. The connection was made through the phone and the SIM card. You didn’t even need an internet connection for that.”

AGAINST LONELINESS The municipality does not want to play a role in the internet connection, but it does want to play a role in the digital tools themselves. The recently published ‘Woonzorgvisie for the elderly 2022-2040’ states that the municipality will investigate how they can help the elderly in the use of digital tools. Van Ballegooijen: “There is a lot available for older people, but it is not yet clear what is really useful and proven effective. The elderly, but also we as a municipality, need help. We have contacted scientific institutes for this.”

There may be financial compensation through the Social Support Law for digital aids. “Whether or not a fee is refunded may depend on the digital product itself,” says Van Ballegooijen. “With the Social Support Law, only aid that cannot be simply bought in the store is reimbursed. Think of a wheelchair specifically adapted to the person. We also don’t know yet if there is a subsidy for everyone or just for people with lower incomes.”

What Van Ballegooijen does know is that technology can help seniors keep in touch with each other and family in a fun way. “Technology is sometimes described as cold and creepy, but I see it as a way to combat loneliness among older people.”

This series was made possible by Mediafonds Amstelveen.

Text: Suzanne Bremmers
Photo: Naomi Heidinga

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