Nearly 100 research projects on assistive technology including telecare and telehealth schemes were funded by the government or the European Union in 2006/7, according to a report from the Department of Health (DH).
The DH annual report on research and development in assistive technology notes an increase in the importance attached to telecare to support both informal and formal care mechanisms and to maintain older people’s quality of life in their own homes.
Pat Sweet, researcher with the Foundation for Assistive Technology (FAST) which compiles the report for the DH, said there was a growing recognition from government of the role of assistive technology and telecare’s part in that.
She added: “In previous reports telecare was mainly confined to small scale or pilot projects but telecare has now become central to government policy and the projects are more mainstream involving perhaps several academic departments, commercial organisations and charities.”
Sweet told EHI Primary Care that trend was expected to continue with major projects on the horizon that would focus on the potential of technology to monitor health remotely.
Telecare projects featured in the report include the Assistive Technology for Independence project at a sheltered housing scheme in Doncaster.
Residents were offered a choice of four telecare packages ranging from a ‘lifestyle reassurance package’ consisting of bed and chair occupancy sensors, passive infra-red movement detectors and door and electrical usage sensors to a ‘specialist devices’ package which offered items such as a wandering client system, epilepsy bed sensor, strobe light alert or vibrating pillow alert.
Researchers found 75% of the intervention group felt this technology helped them stay living at home, 58% believed it helped to prevent them going into hospital, 79% felt it gave peace of mind to family members and 92% did not consider it intrusive.
Telehealth projects highlighted in the report include a pilot project which ended in April run by Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust which offered 40 patients with chronic heart failure Docoboc’s doc@home, a remote monitoring telehealth system, which enabled patients to use a hand held device to answer health and quality of life questions supplemented by blood pressure and weight readings on a daily basis.
The data was analysed automatically and available on a website for the CHF team to view and act on. The research team are currently analysing their findings for their final report.
In addition to the schemes highlighted in the report a full listing of 99 assistive technology projects is included, covering research started, finished or carried out during 2006-07 and funded by the government or the European Union.
The listing includes hyperlinks to further information on the FAST website, www.fastuk.org, including participant contact details, funding amounts and project progress.
Foundation for Assistive Technology