e-Health Technological Ecosystems: Advanced Solutions to Support Informal Caregivers and Vulnerable Populations During the COVID-19 Outbreak
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Introduction: This study highlights the importance of technological ecosystems in supporting informal caregivers and vulnerable populations in coping with the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Methods: This study integrates the available literature on internet of things (IoT) e-health ecosystem and informal care. Results: In the first part of this article, we describe the health consequences of quarantine and isolation and outline the potential role of informal care in containing the risk of spreading the infection and reducing the burden on the health care system. Then, we present an overview of the characteristics of emerging technological ecosystems in health care and how they can be adopted as a strategic option to achieve different goals: (1) support informal carers to help vulnerable populations during quarantine and isolation and facilitate the recovery process; (2) promote the adoption of e-health and telemedicine resources to reduce the well-documented burden experienced by caregivers; and (3) lessen the various forms of digital disadvantage among vulnerable individuals, who are at more risk to be digitally excluded. In the last part of this work, we introduce solutions to overcome potential challenges related to the development and adoption of advanced technological ecosystems and propose a reflection on the legacy of COVID-19 on telemedicine. Conclusions: Thanks to the disruptive potential of IoT for health and wellness promotion, technological ecosystems emerge as a valuable resource to support both informal carers and vulnerable populations. The main factors that represent a strategic advantage of a technological ecosystem are affordability, regulatory, and availability. A high degree of interconnection between all the stakeholders emerges as a key element for the provision of intergenerational care. The most important technical challenges of IoT e-health require to optimize privacy, security, and user-friendliness of IoT e-health.
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