In the age of digitization, relationship between patients and care-givers or health maintenance organizations is changing rapidly as various technologies are being employed by primary and secondary users of health care services across the globe. The popularity of virtual worlds is increasing over the time and healthcare systems are thus using it for promoting healthy behavior. Virtual companion care represents an example of virtual reality that represents a virtual agent which is incorporated with an artificial conversational entity like cathbot, and can display appropriate non-verbal behavior after communicating with existing healthcare databases. Elder population can talk to them in a normal conversational tone and the virtual agent can speak back, answer questions, read news for them, etc. Many elderly people living alone at home require companionship. There are different technologies such as mobile phones and computers that can connect these elderly patients to their families however these technologies can provide only companionship as much as busy family members can do. Virtual companion care provides alternative that can be a substitute for in-person human contact and alleviate loneliness. The concept of virtual caregiving however cannot replace the human companionship although it can be viewed as a way to decrease the time for companion sessions and thus is cost saving. The cost of virtual companion care services in the U.S. is approximately US$ 200 per month. Virtual companion care services have made caring for seniors very easy and feasible.
Virtual Companion Care Market: Drivers and Restraints, Overview, Regional Outlook, Key Players
Primary factors driving growth of virtual companion care market are rapidly growing geriatric population, technological advancements, penetration of technology among general population and elderly population and need for companion care services due to elder population living alone at the home. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Ambulatory Medical Care survey, population aged over 65 in the U.S. will be doubled by 2030. Majority of elderly people may not need assistance but require companionship and thus virtual companion care is adopted by them. Even though information society is gaining importance over time elderly people are major challenge in this respect as they lack interest and knowledge of technological progress. This is expected to limit the growth of virtual companion care market.
Market for virtual companion care is in early stage of development and majority of population in developing countries is yet to know about it. Majority of the platforms are being developed by the universities and are expected to be completed and launched over the forecast period of 2017–2027. Even in developed countries such as the U.S. and European countries the concept of virtual companionship is not readily adopted by the general population. Under its Eurostatrs Program, European Union is developing Naviga platform which allows elder people and persons with disability to access the internet and the information society. The platform also provides home rehabilitation physiotherapy through virtual reality applications.
Geographically, global virtual companion care market is classified into regions viz. North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia-Pacific, Japan, Middle East and Africa. North America clearly dominates the global virtual companion care market due to high penetration of technology and internet among elderly population. Europe is expected to be the second largest market due to government initiatives for providing companion care to elderly. Japan virtual companion care market is expected to witness robust growth due to number of companies working to develop virtual platforms for elderly care.
Some of the players identified in global virtual companion care market include Claris Healthcare Inc., General Electric Company, AIST Japan, GeriJoy Limited, Living Assistance Services Inc. etc.
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