By Sarah Clarke, editor, Home Care Insight
The managing director of a major telecare company has shared his vision for the future of assistive technology, where innovative care models harness a suite of high-tech solutions to aid independence and free up dwindling resources.
Gavin Bashar of Tunstall Healthcare predicts that sophisticated platforms will harness a range of technologies that are capable of predicting and preventing the occurrence of accidents or trauma.
“The capabilities are already there, so it’s about harnessing those technologies and bringing them together, whether it be the Alexas of this world or looking at motion sensors coupled with night vision cameras that can be switched on at any given time to monitor – in an unobtrusive way – whether someone is resting calmly,” he told Home Care Insight.
Bashar gave an example of how sensors can prevent unnecessary trips to hospital.
“If we have a home that is being monitored and we know that the service user goes to the bathroom at 9pm, goes to bed at 10pm, spends an hour watching TV and turns the lights off at 11pm, and routinely get up once during the night, we can be alerted to this pattern through water flow – flushing the toilet – and bed sensors,” he said.
“So when we detect ‘abnormal’ events, such as the client getting up more than once in the night to use the toilet, which could be indicative of an early onset water infection, that’s when we can take that data and alert carers to that change in behavior.”
Going forward, Bashar believes that technology platforms like Tunstall Healthcare’s will need to be robust, flexible and interoperable with a growing suite of products coming on the market that inform care providers of service users’ changing needs.
“Because of digitisation – BT announced that it intends to complete its transition to a digital communication structure by 2025 – and the changes around interoperability, we realised that we are not, with the best will in the world, going to produce all the products that are needed,” he said.
“Therefore it is incumbent on us to make sure that we have an interoperable capability so we can incorporate as many different types of technologies that will add value to every area of social care.”
The challenge, Bashar said, is that the potential of technology solutions to change the lives of vulnerable people is not widely understood, and that few people are benefiting from the advantages that assistive technology can bring, especially those with learning disabilities.
Tunstall Healthcare has therefore partnered with learning disabilities charity Hft to make a case for a partnership with the government that could stimulate investment in telecare and transform the way care is delivered.
The partners have produced a paper outlining the key arguments for a sector deal as part of the UK Industrial Strategy – a long term plan for the future aimed at backing businesses to drive productivity through investment in skills, industries and infrastructure.
Asked how assistive technology could drive productivity and free up resources, Bashar said: “To think that a local authority is going to wake up with tens of thousands of pounds remaining in their bank account is probably too much to expect, but it’s cost avoidance that really will come to the fruition.
“So it’s about introducing services and technologies that improve quality of life and take the burden away from social care and healthcare environments that are stretched from a resource point of view – both in terms of staffing and the funding.”