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Tunstall Healthcare: Supporting at-home independence

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Gavin Bashar, UK managing director at Tunstall Healthcare, discusses how technology can enable older people to live independently for longer, emerging technologies that can support falls management, and how we can meet the 2025 digital transformation target.

Falls are the largest cause of emergency hospital admissions for older people with 70,000-75,000 people fracturing their hip as a result of falls in the UK each year. Medical and social care costs for these patients are over £2 billion.

Falls can reduce confidence, and precipitate admission to residential care, so it’s therefore vital to consider different methods of falls management to reduce mortality rates, and enable older people to live in a place of their choosing safely and independently.

How can technology enable older people to live independently for longer?

We are living longer as a nation, and our ageing population is continuing to grow.

Technology can help us deliver personalised care that empowers people to remain at home with the support of their family and other stakeholders, and improve their quality of life.

As technology advances, we can use data to provide actionable insights, and deliver better, more informed and more proactive care.

Digital solutions can also empower staff and other care providers to work more efficiently, reduce bureaucracy and enable them to spot changes in people’s behaviour quickly to reduce the number of falls and subsequently the need for emergency interventions and more expensive care.

How can technology be used to manage, respond to or help prevent falls?

Technology has a key role to play in reducing the number of falls and minimising the consequences.

We offer a range of solutions which use advanced technology and are tailored to the needs of the individual and their circumstances, which evolve over time as requirements change.

Devices such as wearable fall detectors and bed occupancy sensors can ensure help is on hand quickly after a fall.

Our bed occupancy sensors provide real time alerts when a client leaves their bed and doesn’t return within a preset period of time.

They can even be programmed to switch on lights so that people can find their way to and from their bed easily and safely.

Our myAmie pendant can be worn on the wrist or around the neck and allows the user to call for help by pressing a button which can alert an onsite carer or 24 hour specialist monitoring centre in the event of a fall.

Medication dispensers and prompts can reduce falls due to medication mismanagement, and lifestyle monitoring can identify behaviours which may indicate the likelihood of a fall, enabling intervention.

How do you balance security with service user independence, example, in a care home?

By designing digital solutions which don’t disenfranchise sectors of society and are unobtrusive, we can enhance the security and monitoring of vulnerable people at risk of falls, while also ensuring they are able to live independently without having their daily lives impacted.

New technologies have the potential not just to improve the quality of care and support but also to make it easier for people to pursue their preferred lifestyles, keep up with their family and friends, be entertained and participate in education and work.

If we invest appropriately in technology we can reduce the number of GP visits, ambulance callouts, hospital admissions and demand for local authority-funded residential care as well as improving people’s wellbeing.

What new or emerging fall prevention/management-related technologies are you excited about?

We are seeing a growing number of emerging fall prevention and management-related technologies which have the potential to hugely minimise the number of falls and the associated care costs.

Our telecare services combine a range of unobtrusive alarms and sensors which detect events and are linked to a 24-hour response centre.

Should a sensor be activated, either automatically or by the user, an alert will be immediately received at the monitoring centre where the operator will contact family members, response teams or the emergency services to provide help.

We have a range of exciting telecare products, including our Vibby which is a sleek, contemporary and technologically advanced fall detector which can be worn on the wrist.

The Vibby will automatically raise an alert if it senses the user has fallen, and also enables the wearer to easily call for help manually.

The iVi intelligent pendant is a small, lightweight device which allows the wearer to press a help button to generate an alarm call, and will also automatically generate a call for assistance if it detects a fall.

The latest evolution of telecare is underpinned by digital technology.

Our Cognitive CareTM model will use data-driven insights to not just react to events, but predict and even prevent them, transforming the way health and social care is delivered.

How can we manage the risk of falls in care homes?

Tunstall has worked with NHS Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group and Calderdale Council since 2012 to support care home residents in the area through technology.

The programme combines a Multi-Disciplinary Team, real-time access to live clinical records for GPs, and telecare and telehealth systems.

More than 1,300 residents have been supported in 38 homes  and the project has achieved significant financial efficiencies by reducing emergency admissions, hospital stays and GP visits.

Evaluating the impact of using telecare to manage the risk of falls and mitigate their consequences for care home residents (comparing 2016/17 to 2017/18) found:

  • Emergency admissions relating to falls decreased by 7.7% resulting in an annual saving in excess of £200,000.
  • 50% of care homes saw a reduction in falls of at least 10%.
  • Falls related incidents as a percentage of total incidents decreased from 25.7% to 23.7% year on-year.

How is Tunstall helping to meet the UK’s 2025 digital transformation target?

In preparation for the digital switchover, we’re working with our partners, including housing associations, local governments, and care homes, to audit equipment and plan a strategy to ensure that devices that will no longer work are identified and updated.

By communicating the effects that the transition will have on thousands of devices, we’re encouraging our partners to start making plans for a digital future as soon as possible, and we’ve created resources to support and educate on how to provide a seamless service, implement digital ready equipment and conduct audits of existing equipment to help them plan investments effectively.

For more information on how technology from Tunstall can support falls management, please visit:

www.tunstall.co.uk/our-solutions/connected-care/conditions–disabilities/falls-management/

This is an excerpt from our Special Report – Falls Management: Innovations for an Ageing Population

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