In March, NHSX launched TechForce19 in partnership with PUBLIC, AHSN and the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government. TechForce19 is a challenge based program calling on innovators to support the elderly, vulnerable and self-isolating during Covid-19 to apply for government funding of up to £25,000 to test their solutions.
On 24th April, 18 companies were announced as winners of the program and began testing their digital solutions across the UK. In this article we will take a closer look at the eight companies with digital solutions to deliver remote social care to the elderly or vulnerable.
The Remote Care Challenge
There is a large population of older and other high risk people, many of whom rely on medication, hospital appointments, unpaid and paid carers to maintain their physical and mental health. In March 2020, all over 70s and under 70s with underlying health conditions were advised by the UK Government to isolate at home and stay away from other people to avoid contracting Covid-19. In many cases this has meant that edlerly and vulnerable people have had limited access to the practical and social support they need.
The challenge sought remote care solutions in the following areas:
- Tools to keep vulnerable people safe in the home and monitor when they need help (e.g. smart home systems or telecare systems)
- Tools to support elderly and vulnerable with practical needs
- Tools to support individuals in residential care
Feebris is a London based health AI company, developing deep tech that helps vulnerable patients get early access to care. The company first developed its AI-powered platform to help community workers in India detect childhood pneumonia. The platform has since evolved to help carers and health assistants identify health risks and deterioration within elderly communities.
Feebris will be rolled out across care homes in East London, helping carers to identify health risks and deterioration within elderly communities. The Feebris app guides a carer through a 10min check-up, including capture of vital signs from connected medical-grade sensors (digital stethoscope, pulse oximeter etc.). AI augments clinical guidelines and personalised monitoring to help decisions on triaging health issues. The intention is to provide Feebris to care homes to help carers triage the day-to-day health needs of their residents during the Covid-19 pandemic, and also enhance the capabilities of remote clinicians.
“With patients and clinicians isolating, the pandemic has brought into focus the need for precision medicine in the community. It is important that we act now to continue meeting the existing and emergent healthcare needs of vulnerable patients in isolation. We are privileged to receive the support of organisations like Care City and now the TechForce19 programme to deliver this mission.”
Read more about Feebris and their TechForce19 testing here.
Founded in 2017, London based Home Care Software company Birdie provides a digital platform for home care agencies to better manage the care they provide. Through an easy to use app, care workers can capture daily visit logs, and a central hub allows staff to track real-time information. Family members can receive live and daily safety and well-being updates through the app, including from optional home monitoring sensors.
The new app, which is integrated with the NHS111 online symptom checker, is the first of its kind to provide carers and care managers with online medical guidance in real time, and is regularly updated by the NHS to stay up to date with Public Health England and government recommendations. Birdie helps domiciliary care agencies to increase efficiency, and improves the care people receive in their homes through systematic monitoring, prevention of risks, and support to carers.
Alcuris was founded by Alex Nash when studying at Loughborough University. Alcuris’ Memohub® prolongs the independence of elderly or vulnerable people, enabling them to return to home quicker, from hospital discharge. The idea for MemoHub, all stemmed from Alex’s experiences visiting his Grandad who had Alzheimer’s who would easily forget to do certain tasks such as; take his tablets, lock the front door, or inject his insulin before eating. The digital platform collates data from unobtrusive sensors placed in the home, then provides actionable alerts when behaviour changes, enabling families to intervene early to delay or reduce the frequency of professional ‘crisis intervention’ help. This gives family a reassurance of loved one’s safety and wellbeing even when left alone for extended periods. Memohub also provides objective information to inform professional care planning.
Alex Nash, Managing Director of Alcuris, said: “We are thrilled with the outcome of the selection process and are excited to be working with NHSX, its partners and our Service Provider partners on the next phase of the Techforce19 project.
We look forward to making our contribution to support older and vulnerable people, their families, and Social Care during the Covid-19 crisis.”
4. Just Checking
Warwickshire based company Just Checking was founded in 2004 to help UK authorities to help practitioners understand the needs and abilities of individuals with dementia. Over 80% of UK local authorities use Just Checking for assessment and care planning across learning disabilities, older adults and reablement; with thousands of professionals and family users logging on every day. Just Checking supplies activity monitoring systems, used by local authorities to help with assessment of older people in their homes, for social care. Families use it to check that a family member is following their usual habits, without intruding or undermining their independence.
Just Checking is simple to install, and easy to use especially for those who are less digitally aware, users just need to plug the device into a power socket. While there are no video cameras, the system uses wireless movement sensors and the mobile phone network.
5. RIX Research and Media – University of East London
RIX is a Research and Development Centre with a goal to improve the lives of those with learning disabilities through the easy and effective use of digital and multi-media technologies.
The RIX Multi Me toolkit provides highly accessible and secure social networking that serves as a Support Network for people with learning disabilities and mental health challenges. This easy to use multimedia network, with accompanying communication, personal-organiser and goal-setting tools, enables isolated and distanced vulnerable people to build stronger support circles. It helps them self-manage their care and actively limit the impact and spread of Covid-19 infection. Care professionals use the ‘Stay Connected’ RIX Multi Me Toolkit to remotely monitor and support people’s wellbeing in an efficient and friendly way.
Covid-19 will have a significant impact on disabled people and their carers and so making their lives as easy and engaging as possible will be a key aim of RIX during the TechForce19 trials.
Aparito was founded in 2014 by pediatric nurse, Dr Elin Haf Davies in Wales. After gathering clinical, research and regulatory experience, Erin decided she wanted to help people with rare diseases get improved access to treatments which would improve their quality of life. Erin founded Aparito and designed a ‘patient centric, remote monitoring solution with the healthcare provider in mind to support the development of new therapies’.
Aparito uses remote monitoring technology such as videos, wearables, photos and text to gather patient-generated data outside of hospital. This is focused on patients with rare diseases. Data is captured and transferred via the patient’s own smartphone or tablet and made available to clinicians or researchers in real-time to help avoid direct contact during the Covid-19 crisis.
7. VideoVisit Ltd
VideoVisit was founded in 2010 by a Finnish video communication pioneer Mr. Esa Ojala. As a video communication specialist, he noticed that many healthcare operators were lacking a secured and simple-to-use online healthcare service platform that could be easily integrated into existing healthcare service processes. VideoVisit® HOME is a remote home care service targeted specially to home care, rehabilitation and disability services. It allows remote caregivers to provide face-to-face support and companionship to the clients in their independent living at home.
According to VideoVisit’s CEO Juhana Ojala, the strength of the service lies not only in its ease of use, but also in its humane dimension.
“VideoVisit cannot be compared to traditional telemedicine or conference services, for example. VideoVisit is a door to the world for the person taken care of at home. It brings together the nursing staff, the client living at home, who needs regular care, and his loved ones.”
8. Buddi Connect
Buddi Connect was founded in 2005 by entrepreneur Sara Murray OBE. Buddi helps notify carers or loved ones when an elderly person falls or has an accident. A wristband with an advanced fall alert system puts the user back in charge and can be tailored to individual activity and enables the user to create and cancel alerts, or just buzz connections for fun. The wristband connects to a smartphone app, enabling people to stay in touch with those they care for. Safe groups of connections are united through the app to share private, secure messages and raise instant alerts when help is needed. Important messages from the NHS can be shared directly to users.
During this difficult time, while many vulnerable people are missing the face-to-face contact of family, friends and carers, the reassurance that help is available at the touch of a button is more important than ever.
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