Future health series: From consumer to care

In the latest article from our future health series, Ascom’s long-term care specialist, Stephen Cavanagh, explores how consumer technologies, such as smart devices and cloud-based voice services, are taking an ever-greater role in the management of our health and care.

May 31, 2023

‘Alexa…how is voice-activated technology changing care?’  

According to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport two-fifths of adults now own and use a voice-activated personal assistant or smart speaker device. Asking Alexa to tell us what the weather will be like, to play our favourite song or to switch on our smart lights is now the norm. But beyond making our home lives a little easier, the technology is also helping to improve the delivery of care too. 

Back in November Ascom launched a partnership with Amazon Alexa Smart Properties for Senior Living. The collaboration has enabled us to integrate voice-activated technology into the Ascom Healthcare Platform for alert management and digital workflow, while allowing care home residents to stay connected, informed and entertained. 

The benefit of this technology in a care home environment reaches far and wide. From alerting carers to a resident fall, helping reduce feelings of loneliness, and helping carers better manage their workload. 

Seeing this technology in action is really something else. Our customer, Majesticare, became the first adopter in the UK where it’s given residents the ability to request support while in the comfort of their own apartments, alleviating pressure within the care team. 

Check out our YouTube videos about Ascom and Alexa Smart Properties for Senior Living here

Creating an immersive new world of care 

Once seen as technology only for gamers, Virtual Reality (VR) is now going mainstream across business and healthcare. Within care homes the technology is increasingly being used not only as a form of entertainment and enrichment for residents, but also therapy. 

As well as being fun, studies into VR reveal it can be therapeutic and may provide distractions from pain and anxiety. While it can’t treat the underlying cause of a resident’s condition, VR can help to improve quality of life by allowing residents to visit new worlds or take a trip down memory lane by ‘visiting’ familiar locations.  

And VR technology isn’t just helping residents, it’s also providing vital insight to care home staff and loved ones. 

A recent study by two care homes in Scotland provided people with ‘a walk through dementia’ using VR. Using content developed by Alzheimer’s Research UK, the experience depicts everyday situations through the eyes of a person with dementia, such as going shopping, walking home or making a cup of tea. 

The hope is that by providing this unique experience, people will grow to be more understanding of the condition and gain some perspective on the challenge those suffering with dementia face while carrying out everyday tasks. 

Invisible technology providing visible care benefits 

Our lives are increasingly becoming filled with smart devices monitoring and tracking important personal data. Video doorbells, smart lighting, and smartphone apps. And that technology is also filtering into the delivery of care. 

Remote monitoring technology has really come into its own, and especially so since the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only does it provide extra eyes and ears to care staff which in turn enables more person-centred care, but it’s allowing care homes to feel more like home than a hospital. 

Technological innovation is enabling monitoring technology to become smaller and more discreet. Today, care homes don’t need to be noisy places with intrusive nurse call systems bellowing out alerts that disturb all residents, or hindered by large, obstructive white medical devices in what should be a homely setting. 

Take for example Ascom’s SmartSense, which provides wander management and personalised monitoring. The technology combines discreet monitoring such as sensors, cameras and wearables, which feed into software that details resident profiles. 

It can detect even the most subtle deviation in a resident’s behaviour, for example if a resident is going to the loo more frequently which could reveal the early signs of a urine infection, and automatically sends updates and alerts to assigned carers through smart devices. 

There’s no need for carers to disturb residents by entering their rooms throughout the night to carry out routine checks, the data provides vital healthcare insights to influence the right levels of support needed for the resident and staff can more effectively manage priorities. 

Technology is transforming our lives and our care. 

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