21/08/2018 - Permalink

Innovative technology pilot launches, to help address loneliness and support people to remain independent and well for longer

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A new and innovative technology project that could help address or reduce loneliness and support people to remain independent for longer, is being trialled in Shropshire.

The home assistance scheme, currently called ‘The Broseley Project’ as it’s being piloted in the town, is a collaboration between Shropshire Council, The Lady Forester Centre, University Centre Shrewsbury, the local GP, and the community, along with global tech companies Hitachi, Microsoft and Amazon.

The scheme aims to see how consumer technology such as smartwatches, voice-activated devices and messaging apps can be used or adapted to support the health and social care needs of vulnerable people.

Broseley Project

Broseley Project

Initially the project aims to test a range of approaches and technologies such as voice activated devices (Amazon Echos) to enhance people’s quality of life, which in turn could reduce social isolation and demand for more intensive forms of care.

It will also explore how ‘consumer tech’ can enhance existing types of health, care and support services.

Phase one of the project has been rolled out (from week commencing 6 August) and will monitor social interaction as well as activity to detect and prevent falls. Several volunteers have been trained in and provided with consumer technology for their home, including the Amazon Echo dot, Amazon Echo Show and the Samsung Gear Fit smartwatch.

Broseley Project

Broseley Project

How will the technology be used during phase one?

The technology will be used to monitor behavioural patterns and to pick up signs if there is a change in their behaviour. Wearing the smartwatch can help monitor the number of steps it takes to get from one room to another, and this data will be monitored to observe any changes.

If the person is taking longer to get to another room, this could mean that the person is struggling with their balance. Picking up this change of behaviour, will trigger a response to check if that individual needs support to help improve their gait; this could mean referring the person to falls prevention support.

Volunteers will also be asked to test out the Amazon Echo Dot and Amazon Echo Show. These digital assistants provide advice and information on demand, give prompts and reminders for key appointments or events and come up with suggestions, based on the individual’s interests.  The Amazon Show also provides the extra facility of a display screen which the volunteer will be able to use to discuss any health or social care concerns with the local GP or other health and social care practitioner, as well as connecting with family and friends.

People involved in the Broseley Project

(L-to-R) James Warman (technology projects co-ordinator, Shropshire Council), Ann Maltby (Broseley Project volunteer), Simon Harris (local Shropshire Councillor for Broseley), Emma Murdock (ICT Services, Shropshire Council).

What’s the reason for setting up this scheme?

The social care sector is facing unprecedented challenges and demands due to demographic and other changes and decreasing growth in funding.

This is particularly felt in Shropshire where we have an aging population, which is higher than the England average. In addition, more people are developing long term conditions, which places a strain on health and social care services.

Lee Chapman, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for adult services, health and social housing, said:

“Shropshire Council is committed in its aim to prevent long-term illness, improve quality of life and reduce inequalities in health.

“These new technologies give us an opportunity to transform services so that they are better able to cope with the challenge and pressures we are seeing across the health and social care sector.

“By working with other organisations and bringing technology, innovation and creativity together, we can change how and where care is delivered; by developing new ways to prevent, predict, detect and respond to our communities health and social care needs.”

Simon Harris, local Shropshire Councillor for Broseley, added:

“The Broseley Project came about after I visited a local elderly resident who showed me her heart monitoring device and the process behind what happens if she needed assistance.  I thought surely there must be a better way to support this lady, so I met with council officers who were already looking at digital technology in social care, to discuss how we could improve her situation and those like her.

“As a result the Broseley Project was formed. We’ve already had nearly 80 residents interested in the pilot scheme and we are currently working with 18 individuals who have expressed an interest to take part in the project.

“So far we’re have very positive responses from our volunteers and feedback from this work will be presented to local doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals who are interested in the scheme, at an event in September.”

What benefits can the home assistance scheme bring?  

Consumer technology can provide a multitude of uses and the data coming back from these devices can be vast, building up a clear example of how an individual lives – without intruding on their personal space or monitoring in an intrusive way.

Such devices are here to enhance and compliment the support of the individual, not to replace human contact, and empower individuals to better track, manage, and improve their own health and live better and more productive lives.

The scheme will also help to reduce inefficiencies in social care and health, improve access, reduce costs and enhance the quality of care.

Andy Begley, Shropshire Council’s director of adult social care and housing, added:

“We first presented ‘the Broseley Project’ at our Tech Severn national conference in July 2018; this was the first time we were able to show people the great benefits consumer technology can bring to residents.

“Technology applications can also provide extensive scope for social care and health staff and greatly improve the experience of the social care practice. Using audio and visual technology, staff will be able to organise more regular and convenient online interactions with the families of elderly clients and residents, providing them with ongoing reassurances about their loved ones.

“By implementing simplified and automated processes through this type of technology, staff will be more informed about their clients’ behaviour and needs – due to the data collected. Practitioners will also be able to spend less time on travelling and administration tasks and instead, spend more quality time with their client.”

What’s the timeframe for phase one of the project?  

Phase one of The Broseley Project pilot scheme is scheduled to run for four weeks.

To find out more about the project email james.warman@shropshire.gov.uk or call 01743 258968.