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Keeping people safe in a digital world with telecare and telehealth

Digital devices like Alexa give us clues about the future of telecare and telehealth. Digitalisation could help the elderly remain connected and tackle loneliness.

February 06, 2018

Digital telecare and telehealth

How many of us made a new friend called Alexa this year? Quite a few. From the rankings on Amazon, digital assistants were the most popular Christmas gifts around. For most of us, they’re a fun and interesting novelty. But they also give us clues as to what’s around the corner in telecare and telehealth - especially for helping older and vulnerable people.

Today, we can ask Alexa to remind us to take tablets, to drink more water, or to lock the front door before bedtime. In future, products like this will be able to support long-term health conditions remotely. With clever use of data, we’ll be able to predict problems before they occur (and prevent them). And being more connected should help to ease feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Digital telecare

One thing that will drive this is the switch to digital, as the UK’s telecommunications is upgraded. Over the next few years, old-fashioned analogue systems are being switched off. For companies like us, delivering telecare to thousands of customers, this brings both challenge and opportunity. The challenge is to ensure that people are cared for safely, and keep their independence while these changes happen. The opportunity is to design new products and services, to make a better world from digital technologies.

Digital devices make it easier to collect and combine data. This can be used to design predictive services for vulnerable people, preventing problems before they escalate. Are they eating and drinking properly? Are they taking their medication? What’s their mobility like this week? Having this information raises the quality of care. It predicts the likelihood of treatable illnesses, and gives healthcare professionals a more rounded picture of their patient. It can be used to help family members keep tabs on their loved one’s health and wellbeing.

New telecare and telehealth devices

We also expect to see big improvements in telecare devices like pendant alarms and fall detectors, linking them up digitally. Wearable technology (like GPS-enabled watches or smart shoes with fall detection alerts) will become common. For night-time, there’s acoustic monitoring. This means listening devices, switched on at night and pre-set to ignore someone’s normal noise level. They trigger an alarm for unusual noise. Smart sensors are also being built into mattress pads, to monitor sleep and snoring patterns.

You can imagine the power of joining up voice interaction systems (like Alexa) with smart fridges and meters, plus motion and sleep detectors. It’s easy to see how these devices could be mixed into ‘bundles’ of technology-enabled care – and care that’s more personal, and more targeted.

Chronic health problems, dementia and other long-term conditions are increasingly benefiting from services that can be enabled from a distance. Some care homes can already link to hospitals via a webcam, so appointments can be carried out without the stress and strain of a journey into town. There’s no reason why these technologies couldn’t be used from home, too, reducing dependence on carers and family members. 

Today, over 1.7 m vulnerable people rely on telecare in the UK, through remotely connected systems and monitoring devices. As this number grows, there is a huge role for digital technology – for vulnerable users, their families, and the professionals who support them. The provision of healthcare remotely by telecommunications technology is called telehealth.

Next generation telecare and telehealth

At Taking Care, we’re working on this next generation of telecare products and services. With our personal alarm services, we already help over 70,000 people stay in the homes they love. We offer 24/7 help at the touch of a pendant or personal alarm unit, plus a medical support line staffed by qualified nurses. We also have pharmacists on hand to answer questions on pills and prescriptions.

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

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Ways to support independent living

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure

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