Three cutting-edge projects using technology to help manage the care of our rapidly expanding elderly population were launched at an event at the House of Lords last week as part of the Smart Living Accelerator initiative.
Anglia Ruskin University’s MedTech Campus is working with technology firms, health commissioners and frontline service providers to break down the barriers that have in the past prevented new technology from being implemented into our health and social care systems.
The Smart Living Accelerator will take advantage of Anglia Ruskin’s Postgraduate Medical Institute to carry out research on how technology can help people to manage their health conditions and live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. Evaluation labs will enable users and providers to come together to shape and develop these initiatives and service providers such as Essex Cares and Provide will work in partnership to trial any new measures.
Three pilot projects were announced in Westminster this morning. The first, The Informed Patient, aims to produce an information portal for people diagnosed with the early stages of dementia. This will enable them to go to one place to find out more about their condition, how it is likely to progress and what support is available to them, both under the NHS and privately. This will help simplify the confusing landscape of information for the newly diagnosed and demystify the different types of support available.
Another project, Sensor to Decision, is targeted at those suffering from long term conditions such as coronary heart failure and type-2 diabetes. The challenge is to integrate the right sensors, RF transducers and data analytics to increase independence and make it easier for patients to manage their condition without repeat hospital visits or the need for residential care. This could also result in significant savings for care providers, while offering quality improvements in the way care is delivered.
The third, called Cost of Loneliness will look to provide a face-to-face video system, over a secure intranet, for people who identify themselves as lonely. Studies have shown loneliness compounds existing conditions and has resulted in increased mortality rates. There is huge concern about the number of elderly people spending increasing amounts of time alone, and this project will work with organisations such as The Silver Line to trial the technology and research the outcomes.
Speakers at the launch included Lord Tomlinson, Prof Michael Thorne, Anglia Ruskin’s Vice Chancellor, Simon Harniess of Essex County Council, Chris Axcell of Selex ES, Patrick Geoghegan, Chair of The Silver Line charity and Earl Howe, Parliamentary under-secretary for the Department of Health.
In a speech delivered at the event, Earl Howe said: “Health and healthcare will continue to take up a greater share of the UK’s GDP, unless we transform the way we deliver healthcare. The answer does not lie in doing the same – that just won’t be enough. We can’t keep doing the same but just doing it more efficiently – this won’t be enough either. The only way to meet this challenge is innovation. We will need to change the way healthcare is delivered, where it is delivered, who delivers it and how patients access services.
“The Anglia Ruskin Smart Living Accelerator brings new thinking and action together – uniting stakeholders across health and social care, industry and academia, joining up a fragmented pathway and enabling user-led solutions. This will have impact on health and social care at a local, regional, national and global scale.”
Anita Thornberry, MedTech Campus Director at Anglia Ruskin, said: “Bringing together all the right people will deliver quicker answers to our care challenges. Our connections cut across healthcare, industry, education and government.
“The current way we organise and run health and social care hinders the adoption of Smart Living solutions. Budgets and beneficiaries are misaligned and a ‘short-termist’ approach focuses on quick investment returns. We lack small-scale data analytics to trigger interventions, manage GP involvement and reduce demand on A&E. There are also few interfaces compatible with declining senses like sight, touch and hearing.
“This is not about replacing people with robots. The Smart Living Accelerator will bring together the right people and resources to de-risk and validate technological innovation in care. Centred in Essex, it is a regional project of national importance.”
The initiative brings together the Anglia Ruskin MedTech Campus, the Postgraduate Medical Institute and partners including Compass Group, Essex Cares, Essex County Council, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, NHS Southend Clinical Commissioning Group, Provide, Selex ES and Visteon.