The Digital Age Dr Nigel Whittle, Head of Medical & Healthcare at Plextek Ltd, discusses how

different technology is being adopted in many different aspects of care, and how this is reshaping the delivery of care.

The changing nature of family structures, including geographical spread, has significantly impacted the provision of care by family members, requiring greater intervention by the State. Equally, governments around the world are now faced with a rapidly- growing demographic of elderly and infirm with progressively more complex needs related to both medical and supportive care.

As the costs of caring for this group continue to rise, it becomes imperative for the healthcare industry to embrace innovative technologies that can impact on care pathways. Implementation of technological solutions can then reduce the need for specific individual assistance, enabling care recipients to maintain an independent lifestyle, and minimising intervention from care agencies.


THE HOME There is a strong need for technologies to support safe independent living and

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to enhance support from families or other caregivers. Many companies are developing products that can provide effective and robust support for the elderly, giving them more confidence in their ability to live alone, and helping families avoid the difficult decision to move an aging parent from his or her home to a nursing facility. For example, Sanandco’s MonitorMe Phone System is a clinical device combined with a telephone handset, which is equipped with sensors to capture vital signs such as ECG, SpO2, heart rate and temperature, and send them via telephone lines to a central server, all in the time of a short telephone conversation with their care provider. The digital patient record compares vital signs with previous records and can alert a medical professional in the event that changes are identified.

Other examples include discreet wireless door and movement sensors which can be used to monitor activity around the home, and identify areas where support is required. Typically,

such systems send information to an online app, where caregivers can check activity patterns from any device at any time. For these systems to work effectively, they need to be unobtrusive, reliable and capable of working effectively in a broad range of environments. Privacy can also be an issue, particularly for the elderly who may be unaccustomed to certain aspects of modern technology, and it may be important to avoid the use of cameras or listening devices.

More complex systems are potentially capable of generating richer pictures of a person’s life, by using discreet wireless sensors to gather information about daily routine, temperature, door activity, personal alarms/fall detectors, door/window contacts and gas/smoke alarms, and the time and duration of carer visits, which can then provide useful insights into wellbeing.

One of the major challenges for the elderly is a shortage of suitably adapted homes for them to live in. While adoption of technological solutions may

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