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Care trust plans IoT support for dementia

20/09/16

Surrey and Borders lays ground for trial using internet of things of devices in sufferers’ homes

A health and social care trust is looking to sign up 1,400 people from Surrey and north-east Hampshire for a trial using internet of things (IoT) technology to support people with dementia and their carers.

Dementia_sufferer_with_deviceSurrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is currently seeking ethics approval from the Health Research Authority and testing the mutual compatibility of the devices to be used in what it said is the first trial of its kind in the UK.

It is aiming to begin the trial in 10 homes in November and to increase the number to about 350 early next year.

Named Technology Integrated Health Management (TIHM), the trial has received £5 million in support from Innovate UK and will also involve the Alzheimer’s Society, the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre, the Kent Surrey Academic Health Science Network, Royal Holloway University of London and six local clinical commissioning groups.

Patterns and planning

It will be focused on identifying patterns in behaviour that can help in planning care, and improving information for urgent support. The trust cited the example of identifying the relationship ensuring that room temperatures are kept at the right level to ensure the person is sufficiently hydrated.

All of this is aimed at enabling people with dementia to live well in their homes for longer. The University of Surrey team will evaluate the effectiveness of interventions and look at how the various IoT technologies can be combined.

Nine technology companies will provide sensors, apps and trackers that will be installed in the 350 homes – some attached to objects such as refrigerators, kettles and beds – while another 350 will continue under their usual care as a control group. Data from the devices will alert mental health professionals if there is a problem and, if necessary, lead them to take immediate action.

Surrey and Borders said the technology will not replace any existing face-to-face care. In addition, the Alzheimer’s Society is recruiting 150 trained volunteers to provide support for participants.

Early warnings

Dr Ramin Nilforooshan, a dementia specialist at the trust, said: “The technology is designed to alert us to any changes in behaviour or any changes in wellbeing that could signal someone is becoming unwell or that they are in trouble. For example, they may be developing a urinary tract or lower respiratory infection. We could detect the early signs/symptoms of those infections and successfully treat them at home.

“We know that people with dementia do not respond well to being in hospital – and that their symptoms can worsen in this environment so it is much better if we can treat them before they need to be admitted for acute care.”

Dr Helen Rostill, Surrey and Borders’ director of innovation and development, said: “This is an exciting trial that could make a significant difference to the lives of people with dementia and their families.

“With a growing elderly population, it is right that we examine innovative new technologies, such as the internet of things, to see what we can do to help people live better lives in their own homes and help them avoid stays in hospital that we know they can find very distressing.”

Image from Surrey and Borders NHS Foundation Trust

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