Treating older adults for medical conditions is complicated because they may need treatment for multiple conditions and they may also have chronic conditions such as reduced strength, mobility, hearing, eyesight or cognitive impairments such as dementia. This means hospital in-patient treatments may take longer and they may be unable to leave hospital to recover at home if they do not have a spouse/partner or family/friends/neighbours able to look after them. Older adults recovering at home frequently rely on ‘circles of support’ which range from relatives and neighbours, to the voluntary sector, social workers, paid carers, and medical professionals.
The STRETCH project aims to help coordinate these circles of support with both wearable and smart home technologies to enhance the social and technical resilience of these circles of support. This should have the double benefit of increasing NHS capacity to cope with increasing numbers of older patients while improving care by making sure that medical professionals have timely and accurate information at all times about their patients. By having intelligently combined both the human and sensor-based sources of data, physicians will be able to recognize when a patient is deteriorating and intervene early to pre-empt problems or longer hospital stays.
UK Hospitals often experience ‘Black Alert’ which means that scheduled operations must be cancelled and incoming patients turned away because all the beds are full. This can be caused by older patients being unable to be discharged and return to their home even though they no longer need clinical care but still need some level of minimal monitoring and assistance to live at home.
The STRETCH project aims to address this problem by integrating the human circles of support (including people such as hospital clinicians, GPs, community healthcare workers, formal community support, informal support such as neighbours, and adult children).
We intend to use wearables, smart home, and other Internet of Things technologies to collect data from both people and devices and distribute the right data to the appropriate people at the level of detail that person needs. This may range from re-assuring adult children that their older parent is well to giving timely relevant data to specialist hospital clinicians so they can delivery targeted support to the patients who need it.