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The benefits of wearable technology for falls prevention this winter

This winter more than ever we need to keep people safe at home. With falls resulting in millions of hospital admissions every year, the focus needs to be on reducing the physical and psychological damage falls can do – and the care packages required to get people mobile again.

Today, digital technology and computing is being embedded into all aspects of our lives. Every part of the world is being digitised and transformed by technology.

This winter more than ever we need to keep people safe at home. With falls resulting in millions of hospital admissions every year, the focus needs to be on reducing the physical and psychological damage falls can do – and the care packages required to get people mobile again.

One of the latest innovations in technology already proving its value within the social care sector is wearable assistive technology. Wearable technology brings benefits to individuals, their families, care providers and the wider support network. With individuals becoming more aware of their own activity levels, as well as analytical data enabling professionals to identify at-risk individuals sooner, there is the potential to improve quality of care and make substantial cost efficiencies in both health and social care.

With the potential for further periods of lockdown and isolation, keeping abreast of health and wellbeing - and spotting risks from afar - has never been more important.

Detecting the unknown

Assistive technology has proven to protect those at risk of falling. According to a Department of Health Document in 2009, 34% of individuals over 65 are deemed at risk of falls, increasing to 45% for those over 80. When people fall it usually starts a spiral of decline, especially if a hospital stay is required. By anticipating issues before they arise, technology can provide a trusted solution that enables users to live as independently as possible, improving their wellbeing and quality of life. 

Cardiff Council has been using ARMED falls prevention technology as part of its telecare response service and is alerted to any potential risk trends. This offers the potential to put additional support measures in place, reduce emergency care costs and hospital admissions.

Falls don’t just come at an enormous financial cost. The devastating consequences of a fall can cause long-term physical and psychological damage.

However, the risk of falls can be significantly reduced through several evidence-based interventions. Research has identified a number of frailty issues that could be associated with the risk of falling including inactivity, sleepless nights, de-hydration, abnormal weight changes and reduction in muscle mass. All of these can be monitored from the comfort of an individual’s own home using wearable devices. Predictive analytics and machine learning allow issues to be flagged that would have previously gone unnoticed. 

Efficient use of resources

Technology can assist care workers in the efficiency of their care delivery. With prevention considered a key strand of a sustainable health and social care system, ARMED gives health and care providers a simple and cost-effective solution. Not only does this bring increased independence and quality of life to clients and peace of mind to their family, it also allows early intervention when issues are identified.

From an integrated health and social care perspective, ARMED has tremendous potential to reduce a patient’s care package fund spend related to unnecessary hospital admissions, ambulance call outs and reduced delayed discharge. The untold potential therefore is allocating health resources to the right person, in the right place, at the right time.

Reports can be easily built and customised to an individual’s requirements through the use of wearable technology, allowing information to be presented to a range of colleagues, including doctors and allied health professionals, in a range of formats. This information has the potential for building into personalised care plans around individuals with deteriorating conditions and allow for a more collaborative and cohesive approach to care with health partners.

Encouraging independence

Technology provides the ability for individuals to do this and to become more aware of their own health and potential issues, such as inactivity and hydration levels.  

ARMED uses real time activity stamps, which can be sent to the person to alert them if they have been sitting for a prolonged period, along with a friendly reminder to prompt them to be more active on a day-to-day basis.

Users have also said how they feel more secure while wearing the technology, safe in the knowledge that real-time data and analytics are being flagged not only to them, but also to their care and support network.

There seems to be a misconception that technology will not be embraced by the older generation, however this is not the response we have witnessed. Those using wearable tech have said they feel empowered, secure and safe, are keen to engage and pay close attention to their health data, taking new steps in self-management.

The passive nature of capturing data is a key characteristic of the ARMED solution. “ARMED in a Box” provides a polar wearable and mobile device that is supplied fully configured and paired, ready to be placed onto the resident’s wrist and immediately start collecting data.

This pandemic has brought to light just how technology could hugely reduce the burden on healthcare professionals, while strongly supporting the concept of ageing well and preventing further health issues. Solutions like ARMED have proved their mettle during this time and moving forwards, it seems like technology has a huge role to play in health and social care reform.