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Fewer fall accidents thanks to modern technology

Might a mobile app help to reduce the number of elderly people injured in falls? Using modern technology, RISE accepts the societal challenge of reducing the amount of fall accidents among the elderly. Through preventative care, independence and quality of life will be increased and health care costs reduced.

According to 2014 figures from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), in Sweden at least four people over the age of 65 die as a result falls every day. To this can be added the many injuries, loss of independence and significant healthcare costs incurred each year.

However, according to the stakeholders in MoTFall, it should be possible to use new modern technologies to significantly improve the prevention of these accidents. Their solution, the Snubblometer®, combines a sensor with a mobile phone application to collect and process data to detect fall risks and monitor these risks over time, and a training programme for healthcare professionals to increase their fall-prevention competence.

"This lack of fall-prevention is a major healthcare issue; measures are only taken once someone has suffered a fall. Risk assessment tools, such as questionnaires, do exist; however, many healthcare professionals feel that these are inadequate,” says Frida Falkvall, project engineer at RISE Health and Life Science and a member of the MoTFall team.

Movement analysis predicts increased fall risk

The Snubblometer® itself is the creation of project partner Infonomy and consists of a small sensor that attaches around the leg to collect data.

"This analyses how the wearer moves, how much they move, how stable their gate is and, most importantly, it can observe deviations. For example, an increased tendency to stumble is a sign of an increased fall risk,” explains Frida Falkvall.

In such a situation, an alarm is sent to healthcare staff such as home care nurses, who can then take appropriate measures in good time; for example, reviewing available aids and the home environment and designing training programmes for improving balance.

Personal advice on exercise and diets through mobile devices

A personalised mobile telephone application is also under development that the elderly can use to access their own data, as well as to obtain advice on issues such as exercise and diet.

“If it is possible to see in black and white that your balance needs to be trained to prevent falls, we believe that this may motivate people to make changes," says Frida Falkvall.

Thus far, the Snubblometer® and app remain at the prototype stage. Vinnova, Sweden’s innovation agency, has financed the first two stages of the project and RISE is currently awaiting a decision on funding for stage three, the goal of which will be to have finished products in place within two years. The response from elderly users, relatives and healthcare professionals has been positive, leaving Frida Falkvall hopeful.

“People have reacted positively. We are looking for solutions that create a sense of security, not least in knowing that in the event of a fall, someone will quickly find out about it. There appears to be a great deal of interest, so we definitely believe in this,” says Frida Falkvall.