Intended for healthcare professionals


Home devices deliver data for dementia care

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 30 April 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k1855
Opinion: Household smart meters could be used to monitor our health

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  1. Fran Robinson, freelance journalist, Hampshire

A Surrey study is a test bed for how internet enabled objects in the home could support patients with long term conditions and better target care, reports Fran Robinson

In a room in Chertsey, sandwiched between the M25 and the M3, a clinical monitoring team remotely track the physical and mental wellbeing of 408 people, 24 hours a day.

As this team—of four healthcare assistants, two senior nurses, and a project administrator—monitor their computer screens, a large digital dashboard flashes with alerts to highlight potential problems with their patients, who have mild to moderate dementia. The warnings are coloured according to the level of urgency, red being the most urgent. An audible siren ensures the team are alerted to the highest priorities.

This is the hub of a project called Technology Integrated Health Management (TIHM) for dementia, a £4.4m (€5m; $6m) randomised controlled study evaluating the effectiveness of using internet connected technology and data analysis to remotely monitor and support patients’ health in real time, round the clock.

It is one of seven NHS Innovation “test bed” initiatives, launched in January 2016 and funded by NHS England and the Department of Health. All are testing how healthcare could be modernised to deliver practical benefits for patients with long term health problems.

At a time when buzzwords such as AI (artificial intelligence), data, personalised medicine, and the internet of things (the networking of physical objects) are increasingly used to signal the future of healthcare, TIHM for dementia is an example of how these technologies are beginning to be put into practice and gives a flavour of the potential benefits and problems.

Pooling expertise

Connected to the clinical monitoring unit’s monitors and dashboards are up to 22 devices—a range of sensors, monitors, and trackers (box 1)—in each of 101 homes in Surrey and north …

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