Guest article: The importance of smart home technology and collaboration in the ‘next normal’
Christian Geisselmann is the founder and CEO of AdaptEco. AdaptEco developed a unique collaboration between the some of the world’s most pioneering smart care technology companies. Two years in the making, the company’s Digital Care Partnership forms an ‘EcoSystem’, a unique way of combining leading smart home technology to provide bespoke, end-to-end digital care solutions.
With over 25 years’ experience, Christian is an expert in the field of digital care. Working at both strategic and operational level, Christian has extensive knowledge of supported housing, health and social care, enabling technology, commissioning, and service redesign. He develops integrated visions and strategies which fundamentally promote health, wellbeing and independence through the appropriate use of assistive technology.
In this article, Christian discusses the importance of smart home technology in the UK’s ageing society, how AdaptEco’s digital care partnership has quickly adapted to COVID-19, and why collaboration is key to success.
As our population ages, older people’s need for care and support will continue to increase. As described in a report by Age UK, our current health and social care services are a “perfect storm of limited financial resources, significant workforce challenges, and increasingly complex population needs”. Age UK adds that the number of people aged over 85 (those most likely to require health and social care) will continue to rise. Between 2017 and 2040, the figure is estimated to increase from 1.4 to 2.7 million people.
With the health and social care system already under immense pressure, enabling elderly people to live at home independently for longer is essential. The impact of the global pandemic places even more importance on independent living whilst also ensuring positive mental health and wellbeing.
Smart home technology
The ageing population means that independent living is becoming more relevant to a significantly broader segment of society. Smart home technology will play a critical part in how our health and social care system copes with the rise in demand. The implications of COVID-19 also means our current system has to evolve to ensure protection of the most vulnerable in society. Smart home technology can not only ensure people can live safely in their own home for longer, but also stay connected socially.
Adapting products and services to COVID-19
The global pandemic has been a catalyst for change and has not only accelerated the importance of smart home technology but accelerated the development of new products and services. At AdaptEco, our Digital Care Partnership consists of some of the world’s leading smart care technology companies. I have seen all of them fast forward their research and development programmes and digital roadmaps more than tenfold, launching new products and product features in just six weeks as opposed to six to twelve months in order to get to market quickly to meet rapidly changing demands.
AdaptEco’s digital care partners, MySense and Ethel Care, share their experience of COVID-19 and how they have adapted to the current situation
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt lives and redefine what is normal. Local authorities, the NHS, care providers and families alike are facing new challenges of balancing continuous care for the vulnerable while trying to keep them safe from the virus.
“Supporting the national efforts, MySense developed its core product to include COVID-19 related data points to help ease that pressure by minimising physical contact through remote monitoring while maintaining consistent care support. Our AI driven solution, which is informed by a wearable and sensors discreetly placed in the home, can also be installed remotely, ensuring that users are kept safe as much as possible.
“The additional data points detect elevated heart rates, body temperatures and other wellbeing signs (including oxygen saturation), notifying carers and responders to any apparent changes.
“Through the app and dashboard, health and care staff can view all their MySense users in one place and quickly identify the best way to deploy resources while avoiding unnecessary face-to-face contact.
“The MySense sensors are easy to install and blend into the background at home to help people go about their daily routine unhindered. Care teams and end users can also access support on their terms (voice/video support or documentation via our dedicated user portal) to assist with the successful installation of the product.
“In addition, MySense can be posted to people directly, to predetermined locations (this could be a nursing or residential home, an extra care facility, or sheltered accommodation), or to regions for Local Authorities/NHS/care providers for self-installation. Packaging also contains supporting collateral and instructions accompanied by an on-call customer support team.
“The pandemic has emphasised the increasingly vulnerable position our aging population find themselves in. MySense remains, as always, committed to pioneering compassion to better the lives of others.”
“Ethel is a large, always-on, easy to use touch screen device that supports independent living, remote chronic care and helps reduce social isolation. Ethel can be used by professional health care providers and other organisations to deploy virtual home care through medication management, check-ins, video calling, exercise videos and more.
“Ethel reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic by helping profoundly deaf elderly residents in nursing homes who, because of the pandemic, had no access to sign language translators. The video calling feature enabled staff and residents to communicate via a translator.
“Ethel has also been an invaluable resource for busy Case Managers/Occupational Therapists who were able to help Brain Injury clients remain at home whilst providing the optimal level of remote support. Throughout COVID-19 Ethel has enabled healthcare professionals to keep social contact with their clients, helping them through this difficult time of social isolation.
“The Ethel team and a local council have worked together by using the Ethel technology to follow up with patients at home after hospital discharge for short-term or long-term support. The innovative service not only connects the patient with their families, but also with telecare teams ensuring the patient has a great level of support and frequent connections after being discharged.”
AdaptEco’s EcoSystem – Collaboration
Through our EcoSystem, we meet the requirements of each individual project by providing bespoke end-to-end solutions. Collaboration and adaptability are key, and what I genuinely believe are essential to succeed and meet objectives. One of our current local authority projects combines the two Digital Care Partners mentioned above, MySense and Ethel Care.
The virtual care offer proposed will use a “virtual wrap around” to vulnerable clients in self-isolation and support to hospital discharge/reablement. The wrap around consists of screen care/visits and home healthcare monitoring but the solutions have been redefined as a project to specifically target COVID-19 emergency planning objectives, discharge support and winter resilience.
My Ethel has many benefits and solutions within the tablet but we are focussed primarily on the screen calls in the first instance. With regard to the global pandemic, benefits of screen care include: delivering quality care whilst eliminating the risk of (and fear of the risk of infection) infection for both the patient and carer; counteract loneliness as clients and relatives or other contacts can be part of the solution; and continue to assess citizens professionally in relation to their condition, even if we do not physically visit people in their homes.
With regards to NHS resource, Ethel Care can be used to consult with healthcare professionals, ensure resource is used efficiently and rehabilitation programmes are supported.
The above is then complemented with MySense. The local authority is already piloting the MySense system within adult social care and early trials have indicated that the data is beneficial to give us better and improved understanding of how people are managing within the own homes. Due to COVID-19, MySense has added a pulse oximeter and temperature in addition to heart rate which is already monitored via a wearable sensor during the day and sleep belt at night. This will be particularly useful for both hospital discharge and reablement to monitor people who have been discharged and also people in self-isolation that may be high risk, therefore early intervention will be crucial.
The integration of health and social care
To conclude, there is no doubt that COVID-19 has drastically accelerated smart home technology and this technology is here to stay. What was in the pipeline has now become a reality and there will be many benefits as this technology gradually becomes part of our health and social care mainstream offering, both during and long after COVID-19.
Secondly, we look to a future where we work collaboratively to ensure a positive, enriching experience of health and social care where the two are combined. The lines between health and social care have recently become blurred, which is positive. The impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated that it does not define between the two. If an individual’s health is in decline, both health and social care need to make a joint response.
Local authorities and healthcare providers are seeing a continual cross over, and thankfully are removing the silos we currently face as digital virtual integration evolves.