Japan’s Care Sector Taps Big Data for Staff Shortage Ease

Sompo Holdings, a Japanese Insurance giant and operator of 280 care homes across the country has turned to technology to address a problem with chronic staff shortages in the care sector.

Japan’s history is showcased in low birth rates and the world’s oldest living population, resulting in a struggle throughout the country finding qualified carers for its rising proportion of old people.

By 2040, Japan will require 690,000 additional nurses to meet demand. In 2022, 63% of care homes in the country reported a shortage of caregivers, increasing by 2% from a year previous. In order to solve the shortage, new methods of analysing data are helping to reduce workloads and tailor care provision.

Setting a Standard

Last year, one Tokyo-based care home – housing 60 residents – started to equip all beds with sensors that measure body movement, breathing and heart rates to assess sleeping conditions. The results enabled caregivers to predict when residents needed support throughout the night, allowing them to plan staff assignments and improve efficiency.

The success of the big data experiment has been a positive turning point for the reliance on big data analytics. The new results allowed caregivers to dedicate two or three hours daily to communicating with residents instead of paperwork and unnecessary patrols. It has opened up time for accommodating residents’ requests, such as time outside or food.

US Partnership

Sompo’s new processes are linked to a partnership with US big data specialist Palantir, which the insurer invested $500mn in 2020. Both developed a software platform to combine artificial intelligence and analytics with proprietary data on aspects such as sleep, diet, medical treatment and exercise of residents.

By deploying this technology, the workload in a typical 60-person capacity care home can be reduced by as much as 15%, with cost savings of around $60,000 every year. Caregivers can use data for accurate predictions of health conditions, including dementia and mobility issues, allowing for the early creation of nursing plans to reduce such diseases instead of acting when symptoms arise.

Future of Elderly Care[

By March 2024, Sompo expects to have signed 100 Japanese care providers to its software platform. With the industry 100% people-dependent, the use of big data for predicting health outcomes will help improve the quality of care. Still, there is also a call for efficiencies in improved workplace conditions to motivate employees and raise the social status of caregivers.

Currently, the average industry wage for caregiving is 25% lower than the national average. With Japan operating a system of universal elderly care under a long-term insurance scheme, thousands of small businesses making up the country’s elderly care sector have been slow to adopt digital tools, as they lack economies of scale.

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