Transforming elderly care
Alison Rogan, External Affairs Director of Tunstall Healthcare, discusses the ways health technology should enable, rather than disrupt the lives of those using it.
We need a health and care system that is adequately funded and integrated – you can’t keep doing what you always do when budgets don’t meet demand, so new models of care and approaches that truly address the prevention agenda need to be considered.
Health and care professionals tell me that the main issues older patients face is an increase in complexity of care, coupled with frailty and a lack of options available to maintain independence at home.
Benefits of merging health with technology
Technology can be a key enabler but there is a vast amount not designed with the user in mind, because technology should fit into the background enabling the consumer to live a safer life rather than become a disruptor to their norm.
We focus on supporting people’s own personal outcomes – it may be a lady that has had a nasty fall requiring a hip replacement and on return to home her aim is to have a bath again by herself, or do a spot of gardening.
Connected care makes the inaccessible, accessible, for many older people, some areas of their homes and gardens are now inaccessible as a result of injury, illness or disability.
Over the last 12 months Tunstall has undertaken some extensive research to find out what is important to people and what they need as they get older to help them live a fulfilling life – not in terms of technology, but in terms of their general needs.
The results have been very interesting, five key innovation platforms have been identified by individuals and families and one key trend is social connection. The challenge then becomes shaping services, enabled by technology, to fulfil these needs and that’s where our thinking has taken us at Tunstall.
There are, of course, challenges in using technology. These include security risks, integration with other systems, reliability, willingness to engage with the technology and the current incentive and payment system. We have to assume that as millennials get older and require care, we will see a generation where technology is already embedded in their lifestyle, including the way they manage their health and a wider range of solutions being integrated into their care plan.
Technology and dementia
While there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, technology can work in a variety of ways to empower and support independence, manage risks, support health, be fun and support loved ones.
Someone living with dementia should have, for example, as a bare minimum, a monitored smoke detector linked to a 24/7 monitoring centre. This requires no interaction with the technology but it is there in the background doing its job, which is to save lives.
As needs become greater, technology can indicate if an individual has fallen, or if they come into difficulty while walking their dog, for example. There are memory apps too, for example, the House of Memories app that stimulates memory through video, photography and music.
Are professionals a barrier to the introduction of technology?
We have seen some real success, for example in Calderdale, technology has been introduced into 24 care homes as part of a multi-disciplinary approach and the results include a 25% reduction in emergency hospital admissions and a 58% reduction in GP visits to the care homes.
However, one of the hurdles to the introduction of technology into care homes is keeping on top of staff training due to turnover; and sometimes, care staff don’t get the opportunity to fully get to grips with the technology.
Future of health and technology
There are a whole raft of opportunities for the Internet of Things that we are investigating, including our test bed – Mary’s VIP Home. The benefits of merging technology with healthcare is not just about safety and independence, it’s about the enabling aspects, ensuring that the data, which is absolutely vital for the provision of care, is brought together to create a coherent picture – all in real-time.