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Health innovations improve the quality of life in older people

Preventative health is not just about getting young and healthy people to exercise, eat healthily and live healthily. Just as important are innovations that improve the health, safety and quality of life in all phases of life, including among the chronically ill and elderly. GPS alarms, drug robots and sensor technology that reduce the number of fall accidents are some examples.

Maintaining or improving the health of people who have been ill for a long time is an area where preventive work can make a big difference for many people.

– There are huge societal gains to be made if we can get more people to have better compliance with their treatment. Diabetes and several other diseases are strongly linked to lifestyle habits. Those who take the right dose of medicine at the right time, eat and drink properly, exercise, sleep properly and do not smoke can very often have a good and long life despite their illness, says Malin Edlund Fransson, project manager at RISE.

Drug robots help consumers, health professionals and relatives

Drug robots are a solution that help users to take their medication as prescribed. Evaluations by users in Arvika and Röyken in Norway have shown that the robots provide considerable benefits for both consumers and health professionals as well as relatives.

For users with dementia or other disabilities, the medicine distributing robots provide increased health and wellbeing as well as increased safety. Often the effect has also been increased independence and a much more active life. At the same time, concerns among relatives have decreased.

– It can also give benefits from a work environment perspective. By taking pressure off the home-help service you can reduce the stress and anxiety of employees and create calm and focus in the interaction with the user, says Malin Edlund Fransson.

The project with drug robots is one of about 40 case studies within welfare technology and e-health arranged by RISE. The studies show how technology can be used to ensure that people in spite of illnesses and disabilities are able to live as active, safe and independent lives as possible.

GPS alarms provide greater freedom and independence

A study was held in Norrtälje a few years ago to test GPS alarms as an alternative to escorted walks arranged by the home-help services for elderly people (without dementia) who still live at home.

– Many of the users experienced a considerable sense of freedom and independence when they could go out when they wanted to. The GPS alarm gave them security and the ability to call for help if something happened while they were out, says Malin Edlund Fransson.

Here too, the relatives felt less worried and staff working hours could be spent on other tasks.

Artificial intelligence reduces fall accidents

A third example of welfare technology for preventative health is sensors to reduce the number of fall accidents. This is a type of accident that affects approximately 70,000 people annually and in 2017 cost society SEK 25 billion.

The system, which involves the user wearing a bracelet with a built-in sensor has been tested by Aleris Omsorg at care homes in Uppsala and Sundbyberg. The sensor records deviations from normal movements, for example if someone falls on the way to the toilet, and can then send an alarm to caregivers and relatives. The data collected is also used to analyse risk and learn more about how to prevent accidental falls.

The system, which is an example of a medical AI (artificial intelligence), learns the individual movement patterns of users, such as limping.

The use of AI and other new technologies will play an important role in taking care of a population that is living ever longer:

– More people will stay living at home for longer. This brings with it a greater responsibility for your own health, even if you are chronically ill or old. This is where welfare technology will play an important role in preventing illness, says Malin Edlund Fransson.