THE RISE OF CARER-FOCUSED INNOVATION
Health Tech Innovations That Help Carers Care
With the rise of technologically advanced solutions comes a rise in fear and anxiety, because what if the technology you are trialling at your workplace one day steals your job? The concerns are understandable but on the other hand these fears, fuelled by years of traditions and habits, are potentially standing in the way of helping the age services industry progress.
When you think about futuristic innovations in health care, you might imagine a robot dressed up as a nurse reviewing patients. A bit dystopian, disturbing and impersonal, robotic nurses do actually exist. Whether or not they will be successful is another matter—but these innovations certainly fuel the fear of human staff being replaceable.
Carer-focused innovations, on the other hand, are fundamentally designed with the workforce in mind. These innovations aim to assist with productivity, certainty and performance. They are people-centric and focus-specific with an end goal of easing the pressure on valuable care staff—helping prioritise their time and work-life balance.
An example of this is Amazon’s Alexa. Remember her? The popular voice assistant is now being trialled at a Los Angeles hospital. About 100 patient rooms at Cedars-Sinai hospital have been equipped with Amazon Echo pods to help patients and caregivers interact and communicate more efficiently. The pilot program manages certain requests on its own (ie.“Turn the TV off”) while other requests are being sent directly to caregivers’ mobile phones. In the future, the platform will also be able to send requests to the appropriate type of caregiver, helping to increase productivity without stealing jobs.
There is also a rise in smart MedTech devices and tools that uplift outdated technology and help reduce uncertainty for health care staff. One of these device manufacturers is Stelect (www.stelect.com.au)—a multi award-winning Melbourne based company that is developing an imaging solution to help surgeons and cardiologists with the process of selecting stents for patients suffering from coronary heart blockage. The patented technology consists of an ultrasound imaging balloon catheter and has already won numerous awards and recognition. By updating the current technology, the company hopes to achieve better health outcomes for patients, but the willingness from the industry to trial this new technology is crucial.
If we look specifically at aged care, there are some major concerns that need to be addressed, patient-to-staff ratios being a major one. Although the demand for nurses is growing, there are simply not enough qualified people in the workforce—is this where technology can help?
Melbourne-based health technology company Sleeptite (www. sleeptite.com.au) is an example of an innovator that hopes to revolutionise the sector by focusing on the workforce. Together with their program partners, RMIT University and Sleepeezee Australia, the company was recently awarded a government funded CRC-P grant to research and develop a non-invasive, medical graded, aged care resident monitoring program.
Sleeptite is currently working on embedding flexible proximity sensors into bedding material to offer real-time feedback on a resident’s state of health and sleep. The main objective is to increase the quality of care for elderly in residential aged care facilities and assisted homes while providing the already stretched resources of nurses and carers with a potential lifesaving tool.
Another example is Thomas Holt (www.thomasholt.org.au), an independent not-for-profit residential aged care facility in Seymour Shaw that prides itself in being the “most technologically advanced facility” of its kind in Australia. The centerpiece of this facility is the LiveCare360 platform, which allows residents, family members and staff to do everything from order a meal or call a nurse, to check in on a family member’s health. By implementing the use of robots, sensors, and wearable devices, the facility hopes to increase productivity levels while ensuring there is more actual quality time between carers and residents.
While there may be an understandable stigma around new inventions and new technologies, traditional workforces should attempt to be open to change, especially when the targeted groups that will most benefit are the vulnerable, the sick and the elderly.
It is integral that industry, academia, government and tech wizards collaborate to help combat elusive fears of the future. When doubt strikes and uncertainty is triggered, remember that no matter how far ahead we look there is nothing in the world that can replace that oh-so-necessary human touch.
Originally published on https://lasa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/LASA-Winter-19.pdf