Nothing will ever replace the human touch

I always say that technology is not for the sake of technology. It’s here to help people live a better and fulfilled life; even whey are suffering from chronic diseases. Lately, I came across many examples of how artificial intelligence is used by different healthcare institutions to make patients’ lives better. In my post, I will show you these scenarios, that I consider best practices.

Let’s start with a very quantifiable example: 200 versus 11 000 dollars in this case. The largest public hospital of Atlanta, Grady Health focused on readmission; they wanted to cut the percentage of people coming back to the hospital. They used Artificial Intelligence (AI) and patient data to deduce which recently discharged patients were at risk of coming back to them for something preventable. They started reaching out to those patients via in-person visits from their Mobile Integrated Health Unit, comprised of their EMS staff; they scheduled the appointments during downtime. Such a home visit costs 200 dollars, hospitalization bill after readmission can sum up to 11 000 dollars. The results are promising, in more than 300 cases patients avoided readmission.

MIT is developing a social robot, that that could help care for patient’s emotional well-being. They tested the robot with children, and the results are promising. The research team found that children who got the robot care were more verbal than their counterparts that got a digital avatar or a plush teddy bear. The more a child is engaged, the more a specialist can do for the child. While this robot was explicitly for a pediatric population, this type of social robot could be used to care for the increasingly large aging population.

There are plenty of examples to choose from in this field. I recently read in The New York Times that a nursing home caring for elderly with dementia and Alzheimer’s started a trial with a tiny robot, called Zora. The patient reacted very well to the small robot: many patients developed an emotional attachment, treating it like a baby, holding and cooing, giving it kisses on the head. Some of the nurses view the robot as an expensive toy, that keeps the patients busy.

However, Zora is much much more; the robot leads the daily exercises, talks to the elderly. Zora does not dispense medicine or feed the patients, as one nurse stated, these are such intimate moments, that no robot should perform these task. Nothing will ever replace the human touch, the human warmth the patients need.

Author: Zoltan Gelencser

How technology is changing dementia care in the home

Just as technology increasingly features in everyday home life, advances in ICT are presenting major opportunities to advance the delivery of health care for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients in their own homes.

Helping people stay in their own homes for longer is a key objective for patients, families and healthcare professionals. Being cared for at home usually means more autonomy for the individual but must be balanced safety considerations. As the disease progresses, the risks of living alone at home increase significantly.

Innovations are unlocking new ways of extending the time people are able to stay autonomous by mitigating risks and empowering sufferers to play a more active role in their own care. They are also giving families, healthcare professionals and service providers new tools for delivering high-quality patient-centric care.

New apps and wearables are helping to integrate care discreetly and efficiently into daily life. GPS trackers in shoes, smartphone apps and online platforms that let patients and families rate places for dementia-friendliness are all making coping with early and intermediary stage symptoms easier.

Remote patient monitoring has a central role

By 2020, the research firm Global Industry Analysts estimates the remote systems market will have reached a value of $46 billion.

Giving reassurance to healthcare professionals that patients have successfully completed daily tasks like locking the front door or turning off the oven means lower risk and better-targeted interventions.

Remote monitoring also helps clinicians and families to identify problems sooner and means that face to face time can be spent more effectively, driving up quality at the same time as driving down costs.

Better data for better results

Especially early on, clinicians are dealing with very few data points, gathered through infrequent face-to-face contact. By introducing technological solutions at the outset, issues are more likely to be identified quickly.

Systems for sharing data are also key. By automatically sending the right data to the right person at the right time – whether that is a neighbor, family member, clinician or service provider, the quality of care can be improved.

Letting a neighbor, for example, know that the patient has missed a check-in means an investigation can be carried out quickly by a familiar face, which either gives reassurance or allows the alarm to be raised sooner than with traditionally scheduled visits.

Working in this way, not only can care be improved, but costs can simultaneously be reduced.

Building technology-assisted safety nets

Creating a more effective safety net around a patient also gives them more confidence to live independently, knowing that help and support are readily available should something go wrong. Automated alert systems and data sharing mean the alarm can be raised quickly with the right person. That means people can live fuller lives for longer because fear is lessened.

In general, individuals prefer to be cared for at home, and innovations in technology for dementia and Alzheimer’s care is allowing the creating of increasingly accurate and tailored healthcare plans that allow that.

Well integrated into patient-centric care, we see new technology and connectedness as a means of empowering individual patients to live more independent lives and stay at home for longer. It also allows clinicians to deal with budgetary pressures and an ageing population without the significant investment that would normally require.

Author: Laszlo Varga

Innovative technology brings real change in dementia care

Caregivers play a fundamental role in looking after people suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other cognitive illnesses. They often have close personal relationships with service users and their families and are intimately involved in their families.

At the same time, agencies are under increasing pressure to increase service quality against a background of public sector budget cuts. That’s why new technological solutions are in growing demand.

We see these technologies as ways to complement and supplement face-to-face contact – not replace it. People with dementia can be given tools that increase their safety and security, let them stay independent for longer, and make coping with illness a little easier.

New apps, wearables and services

Exciting technological innovations are expanding the options available to caregivers. New services can be offered and increasingly tailored care plans are becoming commercially viable.

Opt-in apps and devices that collect, measure and analyse data can flag up issues sooner, letting carers and clinicians respond sooner and adjust plans accordingly. Smart, holistic services augmented through technology can also help agencies to personalise their services. This increases quality and creates value without significantly increasing costs.

Apps are now available for setting reminders for daily tasks like locking the front door or taking medication. Some offer automated notifications that tell carers when something has been done or missed, reducing response time when things go wrong.

Other apps give carers the opportunity to create profiles for the people in patients’ lives, where details are recorded about how they know someone, the different facets of that relationship, and key information to anchor conversations. Technology for reminiscence also facilitates discussion by bringing to life historical events such as famous sports matches.

As awareness grows, new online platforms are launching designed for people to rate a place’s dementia-friendliness make it easier for caregivers to successfully organise trips, confident that adequate facilities will be in place when they get there.

Advances in wearable technology means increasingly discreet ways for people to carry GPS tracking, which alerts carers should someone become lost. Shoes, jackets and other items can all be fitted with these devices, and services can be programmed to contact the right person automatically. Contact information and identification can also easily be encoded in objects like bracelets.

This all reduces self-consciousness and helps to overcome resistance, and avoids stigma – perceived or real – to using wearables in public.

A bright future

Many of these new technologies mean that collaboration between agencies can be greatly improved with opt-in data sharing to reduce duplication and ensure caregivers to stay coordinated, either within a single agency or across multiple organisations.

At the cutting edge, research and development in machine learning and AI has huge potential to create technology that can understand and analyse patterns of behaviour, before intelligently anticipating patient needs.

All in all, it is an exciting time for technology in dementia healthcare. Despite financial and demographic pressures from an ageing population, a significant shift toward more patient-centric care and transformational technology are offering opportunities to make care smarter, more responsive and keep people independent for longer.

Author: Eva Lajko

Data is power

In our case, this power translates to preventive health. As I always say, if meticulously collected medical data is available, then it is only a matter of imagination the results derived from it.

I stumbled across a study in the prestigious Nature magazine that justifies my theory, that data collected with the help of health IT devices is the starting point of personalized, precision medicine.

In this study, based on an examination of 1002 healthy individuals, where healthy means “able to work,” researchers searched for digital phenotypes associated with stress. Physiological signals are a reliable indicator of it, but a large-scale validation is lacking. In this study subject were middle-aged, white collar workers, from technology oriented, finance and public companies. Researchers registered data for five consecutive days over the span of two years.

Subjects received two wearable devices from the scientists: a chest patch to measure the electrocardiogram and acceleration, a wristband to monitor skin conductance, skin temperature, and acceleration. In the study, they also collected smartphone sensor data: location, movement, SMS, call, mail logs, phone usage, audio, environmental sensors. The earlier small-scale study suggested that physiological responses to stress tend to be person-dependent.

Based on a data-driven approach, the study identified digital phenotypes characterized by self-reported poor health indicators and high depression, anxiety and stress scores that are associated with blunted physiological responses to stress.

The results of this study provide a baseline for large-scale ambulatory population monitoring to uncover blunted physiological responses to stress. Furthermore, these findings have important implications related to stress modeling strategies, indicating that stress detection models should be tailored to phenotypes by including multi-sensor data sources, as subjects with different physiological responses to stress, display different health statuses.

This study exemplifies how large-scale, data-driven analytics can be used to derive digital phenotypes and generate new insights into stress detection and disease interception in general. Continuous stress detection will form the basis to enable highly personalized, just-in-time interventions for preventive health — just the problems, here at NETIS are working on.

Author: Laszlo Varga

How ICT Innovation Can Transform Care for Cognitive Impairment

Automation, wearable tech and integration in dementia care helps carers to focus on face-to-face human interactions.

Across Europe, populations are ageing and with that, cognitive impairment is becoming a serious issue. The number of people suffering from dementia is rising rapidly: in 2015, almost 47 million people worldwide had been diagnosed. By 2050, that number is expected to be 132 million. The World Health Organization says it is one of the biggest public health challenges we face.

That figure alone presents difficulties for healthcare professionals, but the challenge is compounded by financial pressures and rising expectations of quality. Care for those with dementia, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, has evolved and healthcare plans must be increasingly tailored and patient-centric.

However, instead of being allocated more resources, clinicians are often asked to deliver more for less, which is why we must continue to innovate, and turn to technological solutions. We see technology as a key pillar for the delivery of care that empowers dementia sufferers, involves them in the delivery of their own care, and allows them to stay independent in their own homes for longer.

Advances in automation, wearable tech and integration are can help us to reduce duplication, involve the right person at the right time, and allow increasingly precious face-to-face time to spent in the way that best meet each person’s specific needs.

A new era of patient-centric care

The importance of autonomy and quality of life for people with dementia is increasingly recognised. Patients want independence, especially in the early stages of their condition. We know how important it is that individuals stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Advances in wearable and in-home tools mean that risks can be managed in a cost effective and non-intrusive way, freeing up resources to be used elsewhere.

We are also able to unlock collaboration opportunities through better data recording and sharing. Throughout treatment, a dementia patient will engage with many agencies and clinicians – often simultaneously. Duplication in the system is not only expensive, it detracts from quality. By making data collection easy or automatic and by creating systems that intelligently automate the distribution of information, duplication can be avoided and intervention can become better targeted, increasing productivity and value creation.

Alongside collaboration, the dramatic increase in data points created by automated technology means that care plans can be tailored to individual needs in a much more meaningful way. Once in place, technological solutions are able to generate precise, relevant data at very low cost and even perform simple analysis to inform decision makers and warn of problems early.

Radical innovation for patients and caregivers

Advances in simple, effective IT technology is making a fully integrated care system realistic. For patients with cognitive impairment, linking their own experiences with those of their families, caregivers and healthcare professionals can significantly improve quality of life.

Especially when an individual engages with primary care, nursing homes, hospitals and other clinical settings while living and being visited at home, developing methods to record and analyse data centrally can unlock opportunities for joined-up thinking. If everyone involved – including the individual and their families – are able to see the full picture, better decisions can be made and resources can be used in ways that create the most value.

While European healthcare systems are facing growing challenges as the needs of citizens’ change, technology is opening new doors. When well-designed and well-implemented, care that is smarter, more proactive and more cost effective can be delivered – simultaneously meeting the needs and demands of patients, families and clinicians.

We at Netis work on integrated solutions which cover patient monitoring, data analysis as well as direct services for patients, caregivers and health professionals. Meet us at Dementia Care and Nursing Home Expo 2019 (Stand D971) to get the most out of available technology for integrated care.

Author: Eva Lajko