It started as an idea……

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“ Creating a new product that does something new and out of the ordinary, is not something you dream up or find by scanning the latest publications for new ideas. The first company came about by accident, spawning a radical new product concept for the leisure booking market. At the time, no one was doing anything like it, but now, 15 years later, that concept is considered standard fare

And that’s how it was with MimoCare. Six years ago, caring for an ageing parent from the other side of the world, it became obvious that existing communications and applications were simply not up to the task. Whilst seeking a solution, it occurred to me that my interest in emerging and internet based technologies could be harnessed to allow us to check he was out of bed and in the kitchen. That concept moment gave birth to a very simple basic internet connected sensor network, capable of confirming the wellbeing of that parent.

MimoCare has come a long way since then but at that time it was ahead of the growing silver tsunami of an ageing population.

The issues raised in trying to cater for and look after that growing section of the population are now testing  resources and support to the limit. Paramount is a need for care technology that can be integrated with family, carers and others to enable independent living without fear of loneliness or an accident at home.

MimoCare is a product before its time but now well positioned to play its part.

MimoCare has a dedicated team of developers and support who have refined and enhanced the product and taking it into new areas where better outcomes are needed across all care sectors.”

The rise of “Predictive Care” – Not just living longer, but living better

Earlier this year, MimoCare attended the Australian Future of Aged Care Summit where one of the central themes emerging was that around “Positive ageing”, not just living longer, but living better. Although gaining more focus in today’s environment, the idea of positive ageing is not a new one.

First proposed by James Fries of Stamford University in the late 1970s, he discussed a future in which people were active and engaged well into the later years of life, with the onset of morbidity and serious age-related diseases postponed.

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At the core of this concept is an emphasis on improvements in preventative medicines and the untapped potential of health promotion and prevention, termed the “Compression of Morbidity”.

“The idea behind compression of morbidity is to squeeze or compress the time horizon between the onset of chronic illness or disability and the time in which the person dies.”

Put more simply , if we can delay the onset of disease and frailty by actively pursuing healthy living for longer, we not only may increase the years we live, but those years will be happier and more productive.

Since Fries’ first raised this concept, much work has been done on the promotion of healthy aging awareness at both the individual and policy levels. Fast forward 30 years however and this concept may be about to come into its own.

With the emergence of modern technologies such as FitBit, wearable heart rate monitors and the IoT enabling big data capture, it has never been more possible to get an accurate view a person’s health.

And if you can’t monitor it, you can’t improve it. 

Traditionally, health and wellness programs have focussed on identifying existing health problems and finding ways to correct or minimise them (acute care) as a way of improving quality of life.

But increasingly, products such as MimoCare, have been harnessing these new technology innovations to move more toward a concept of subaccute or “predictive” care. Now it is possible to utilise collected data to predict where health issues may arise and implement early intervention to prevent them becoming a concern in the future.

By gathering a continual stream of data on the normal daily activities of an elderly person, MimoCare utilises trend analysis to collate this data into patterns of “normal” behaviour.  By building a profile of normal activity, any deviation from this routine can trigger an alert for further investigation. It may be that the resident is spending longer and longer sitting in the lounge chair, signalling a need for an increase in regular exercise or an increasing difficulty in being mobile. The sensor in the bathroom may be picking up increased activity, indicating more frequent toilet use, potentially a urinary tract infection.

These alerts can be picked up by family members or care providers, or even the elderly person themselves, enabling programs to be put in place to address a potential concern before it becomes a serious problem, thus delaying the onset of morbidity and increasing a person’s quality of life.

After all, in the words of James Fries;

“By minimising the number of years people suffer from chronic illness, we enable older people to live more successful, productive lives that benefit themselves and society. When we consider healthcare reform and new approaches to structuring health care systems, we must recognise that by avoiding long-term periods of morbidity, we reduce healthcare costs and improve the lives of patients at the same time.”

 

References:

  1. Compression of morbidity: “Aging, natural death and the compression of morbidity”, Fries, FJ. N Eng J Med – 1980 Jul 17:303(3):130-5
  2. Compression of Morbidity: researchgate.net (Modified from Blagosklonny 2012)

Why switching to a predictive care model can improve your quality of care.

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We’ve read a lot recently on the concept of “small wins” – making consistent, incremental smaller changes, that over time take you a long way to reaching your ultimate goal.

Given the current movements within the Australian Aged Care landscape, the ultimate goal – the superior delivery of aged care – will take time and a series of “small wins” to achieve.

Stacey Higginbotham, a technology journalist and IoT expert, recently wrote an interesting article on the value of “small wins” within the healthcare system – “Does healthcare have the prescription for valuing IoT?”

Stacey highlights how easy it is for companies to place more value on a visable “big fix” over smaller, incremental improvements, such as maintenance and incident prevention systems.

In Healthcare, however, improving health and wellbeing is all about maintenance and incident prevention and essential to the delivery of quality aged care.

The Internet of Things and connectivity are intrinsically linked to preventative maintenance – with large appliance makers, car manufacturers and factories deploying connected sensors to detect a failure in a product so it can be fixed before it breaks.

At MimoCare we term it “Predictive Care” and the concept is largely the same. Whilst sensors around the home monitor movement and trigger an alert when an emergency arises, they are specifically designed to work behind the scenes in preventing incidents and reducing hospitalisation.

Additional features in the MimoCare sensors have been designed to address those concerns specific to the aged care sector. Motion activated lighting has been incorporated into the hall and bed sensors, improving visibility at night and in low light areas to help prevent falls.

The fridge sensor checks activity for healthy eating patterns, whilst also monitoring temperature levels to reduce food spoilage and subsequent food poisoning.

Sensors in the kitchen and bathroom  can detect whether the stove or shower has been left on, preventing serious injury, water damage or fires within the home.

In aged care, the challenge will be making the shift from the current “big fix” or reactionary mindset, to placing greater value on those consistent “small wins” toward predictive care. After all, preventing incidents and maintaining wellbeing is surely the most important concept in providing superior aged care and can provide significant benefits to the elderly and business alike.

Ageing-in-place technology may hold the key to better mental health outcomes for the elderly.

Mental illness among retirees is a becoming an increasing industry focus.  The number of people entering retirement in Australia is set to increase rapidly, and this raises a number of questions around the provision of elder mental care.

Latest figures show that globally, more than 20% of adults aged over 60 suffer from a mental or neurological disorder (excluding headache disorders), and 6.6% of all disability among over 60s is attributable to these conditions. The World Health Organisation states that,

“Depression is the single largest contributor to years lived with disability. So it’s the top cause of disability in the world today,” (Dr Dan Chisholm from WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse)

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The most common neuropsychiatric disorders in this age group are dementia and depression. Depression is often not well recognised or detected in older people. Symptoms such as sadness, sleep and appetite problems or mood changes may be dismissed as a ‘normal’ part of getting older. Symptoms such as poor concentration and memory difficulties may also be confused with other conditions such as dementia.

Whilst handling the everyday stressors common to most of the population, this age group are particularly vulnerable as they face significant life changes. A drop in socio-economic status and income from retirement, the onset of frailty and chronic illnesses and a decreasing ability to maintain lifestyle choices, make the elderly particularly susceptible to mental illness. The loss of friends and significant others may lead them to ponder their ongoing role in the community.

In a number of non-western cultures, such as Korean, Mediterranean and Latino,  the role of the elderly is clearly defined – they are leaders, care providers, revered for their experience and knowledge, an integral and valuable part of the family and society. As such, the elderly remain thoroughly integrated well into their last days.

Western cultures, in comparison, place greater value on youth-centric attributes such as independence and individualism. The concept of the “Protestant work ethic” traditionally ties an individual’s value to their ability to work, so as productivity decreases in old age, so does apparent value to society.

Anthropologist Jared Diamond has studied the treatment of the elderly across cultures and has stated that elderly societies in countries such as the UK and the US, traditionally live;

“Lonely lives separated from their children and lifelong friends.”

Today, people of retirement age are healthier, both mentally and physically, than ever before and are not content to slide into decline in their elder years. Increasingly there is evidence that good mental health is a key factor associated with healthy ageing (Kane 2005) and that mental health has an impact on physical health, and vice versa.

The growing interest in the importance of maintaining good mental health for healthy ageing, has resulted in an emphasis on positive ageing strategies and prompted a rethink about how to approach the mental health issues of older adults (Jeste & Palmer 2013)

Many retirees these days want to maintain or even expand their current lifestyles, remaining in their existing communities, homes and social groups for as long as they are able. Doing so has a number of apparent benefits:

  1. Being an integral part of a community/family unit fosters a feeling of purpose after retirement from paid work.
  2. Continual social and emotional support serves as a protective factor against depression.
  3. Social isolation has been identified as a major risk factor in the rate of mental illness
  4. Maintaining a sense of individualism and independence can maintain positivity and happiness.
  5. Physical and mental exertion have been proven to have a positive impact on depression levels and maintenance of cognitive function.

Changes to retirement funding in Australia will enable a new approach, with higher levels of retirees opting to age-in-place.  This trend raises new challenges for risk management, and is where technology integration can deliver significant benefits.

Systems such as MimoCare are specifically designed to balance the wishes of the elderly with the concerns of families and carers, whether it be ageing-in-place at home, or within a retirement village environment. Higher levels of independence can be offered to retirees, whilst supporting their existing care needs and ensuring that health, safety and well-being concerns are addressed. Safety risks are minimised through ongoing monitoring and proactive alert functions in case of emergency.

By assisting in maintaining the integration of elderly people into community and family units, these technologies may hold the key in providing a more positive mental health outcomes for the elderly in the immediate future. See more about how MimoCare is assisting in supporting ageing-in-place strategies at mimocare.com.au

How to overcome the 8 main barriers to technology adoption by seniors.

Senior Australians (those over 65 years of age) are utilising technology more than ever before. In 2016 Accenture conducted a report into the adoption rate of technology within this cohort and clearly demonstrates that, far from being left behind, the 65+ age group is increasingly turning to technology to help improve their lives. Smartphone ownership is set to reach 65% by 2020, over 85% already access the internet every day, with 47% regularly using social media to communicate and connect with family and friends.

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Whilst these figures are certainly encouraging, in other areas, technology adoption rates are not so positive. Developments in assistive technology, especially in the aged care space, can yield significant improvements to the way the elderly age, making it possible for them to live independently longer, more safely and in better health than ever before.

“Ageing-in-place” technologies, such as the MimoCare system, a motion sensor based, home monitoring system, can provide peace of mind to seniors and their families when they wish to retire at home. The discretely placed sensors record activity levels during the day, proactively alerting family and carers should anything out of the ordinary be detected. Low-cost, unobtrusive and user-friendly, these types of technologies give older people and their families the confidence and security to stay in their own homes for longer.

The success of ageing-in-place technology, however, depends on adoption from the end user. Implementation and adoption remain modest, despite high rates of adoption of other areas. As with other technology-based services, such as telehealth systems, there are several interconnected barriers to be overcome before seniors will feel more comfortable in getting on board.

A study conducted in 2013 by the Telemedicine Journal and E-Health#, conducted research into the low adoption rates of telemedicine systems across the United States. The research examined the theories behind user’s intention to adopt technology, predominantly what has been termed “The unified theory of acceptance and use of technology” model by Venkatesh et al.

This model proposes that consumers assess 4 key areas when deciding on technology adoption, including:

a. Perceived usefulness (the benefits they will receive from the technology),

b. Effort expectancy (the degree of ease of use),

c. Social influence (the degree to which a consumer believes others are adopting a system),

d. Facilitating conditions (The degree to which the consumer believes the infrastructure exists to support them in using the system.)

In the context of older users’ acceptance, there are an additional four criteria – computer anxiety, perceived security, self-efficacy, and doctor’s opinion.

Many older users may carry a degree of negativity or even fear toward the use of technology, with “computer anxiety” being the most important consideration in their intent to use technology. Coupled with concerns about whether they will be able to perform a function, (computer self-efficacy) computer use has proved to be an important influence on attitude and intention to adopt new technologies.

Perceived security concerns, mainly about privacy, is the top critical concern to older adults. Many modern retirees, especially those without major health concerns, can be fiercely independent and the prospect of being monitored can be offputting. Indeed, for many aged care facilities and families keen to install monitoring systems to increase peace of mind and duty of care, convincing the elderly person that they will be able to maintain a high degree of privacy, may be the biggest hurdle to overcome.

In addition, seniors may fear the idea of someone else having sensitive information about themselves and potentially taking away their ability to make decisions on their future care. They may also fear the risks of having information stored in the cloud that could be accessed by people other than care providers and family members.

So how do you address and overcome these barriers and drive the acceptance of technology-based systems in aged care? In many instances, education will be key. Consumers will want to be sold on the benefits that adoption of the new technology will provide them – greater independence, great flexibility and increased health and wellbeing levels. They want to be reassured that the system will be easy to adopt – easy installation, minimal user input requirements and 24/7 support should something go wrong.

But most importantly, consumers need to be reassured about their concerns surrounding their privacy. Many concerns are driven by a perceived loss of dignity and independence that monitoring may bring. A lack of understanding of cloud-based technologies may lead seniors to worry about how safe their information will be online, especially in regards to their information being hacked. Providing clear, easy to digest messages addressing these concerns is key, utilising channels that most resonate with the way seniors digest information – such as visual demonstrations, communication videos and peer recommendations.

It is obvious that, far from being adverse to technology adoption, the over 65s cohort is increasingly turning to technology to achieve a higher quality of life. What is apparent, however, is that whilst younger generations are quick to accept and adopt new innovations, more in-depth and considered communications are vital in driving the growth of technology-based systems in the aged care arena.

 

Reference guide:

1. IMAGE “Accenture Charts Seniors Use of Digital Channels”https://www.accenture.com/t20160829T222304__w__/us-en/_acnmedia/PDF-29/Accenture-Chart-Seniors-Use-Digital-Channels.pdf

2. Venkatesh V. Morris MG. Davis GB. Davis FD. “User acceptance of information technology: Toward a unified view.” MIS Q. 2003;27:425–78. [Ref list]

3. Roy Morgan research via AMCA report – “Digital Lives of Older Australians 2106”

 

Why Technology is critical for the future of aged care.

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Australia’s population is ageing—the latest population projections by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that by 2064 there will be 9.6 million people aged 65 and over and 1.9 million aged 85 and over, constituting 23% and 5% of Australia’s projected population, respectively.

As a result, the aged care sector faces significant challenges. It is estimated that more than 60% of the existing workforce will enter retirement in the next 15 years—this sharp increase in numbers will be accompanied by radically different expectations of (and pressures on) care support.

Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) CEO Sean Rooney predicts that approximately 1.3 million aged care workers will be needed in the industry to meet these new levels of demand—demands which are multifactorial, incorporating not just pressure for beds, but also increased demand for consumer choice and greater technological integration.

What role does technology play?

Technology is changing every industry, and in an increasingly competitive industry, it will be aged care service providers that are savvy enough to harness the opportunities provided by new technologies that will lead the way.

The aged care industry has traditionally relied on a range of time-intensive, manual processes such as data entry, face-to-face checkups and incident reporting; however, with the increasing numbers of retirees and their families insisting on a more comprehensive standard of care, an increase to staffing levels simply may not be enough to satisfy this demand. Adopting new technologies will allow the industry to increase its operational efficiency by streamlining and automating manual processes, making staff and business more effective.

David Lau, Health Industry Lead at Optus Business, states:

“The advantage goes to organisations that can best document what they’ve done, so those that can automate comprehensive data collection and turn that into insight will have a competitive edge”

Mr Lau also highlights that new technology can significantly assist aged care providers in three key areas: efficiency of care services; quality of care provided; and patient experience and satisfaction.

Technology that cares

Described as ‘ageing-in-place’ technology, MimoCare is an innovative system that monitors the wellbeing of an older person, utilising Internet of Things technology to support independent living and peace of mind.

Small, discrete motion sensors are placed at key areas around a home or village unit, collecting and collating a resident’s daily activity levels. These activities are plotted and accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from any connected device, with programmable alerts triggered when anything outside of a “normal” activity is detected.

For aged care businesses adopting MimoCare technology, benefits include a reduction in routine manual checking of residents, as the data for each individual unit can be accessed at a central nursing or carers’ station. This streamlines activities and ensures staff time is deployed to areas where face-to-face interaction is essential.

As the MimoCare dashboard is accessible via any internet-connected device, staff will have access to resident information from anywhere around the village. Alerts can be received and information on the incident can be gathered before arriving at the scene. Duty-of-care levels and reaction times can be demonstrably increased.

Post-event reporting is also faster and easier—all data is dated and timed automatically, minimising manual inputs, and is easily exportable to provide to healthcare professionals, should the resident require hospitalisation.

Preventative power

Regular activity and movement is essential in maintaining physical and mental health after retirement, and the trend analysis features of the MimoCare system can track and highlight potential health problems should activity levels gradually or sharply deviate from “normal” ranges.

Additionally, increased nighttime waking or visits to the bathroom may signal to carers of possible health conditions developing, while the fridge monitor can be used to ensure healthy eating patterns are maintained and that food is kept at the optimum temperature to prevent spoilage that can cause illness.

Adopting new aged care technology such as MimoCare not only enables families and care facilities to provide a higher level of care, it also ensures all care activities are measurable and able to be analysed—crucial for continued improvement in an industry that is facing one of its biggest challenges to date.