NHS Trust launches IoT dementia care trial

Surrey and Borders Partnership Trust is to launch a £5m ground-breaking Internet of Things (IoT) technology trial that could transform the lives of people with dementia and their carers.

Called TIHM (Technology Integrated Health Management) for dementia, the trial will help clinicians to remotely monitor the health and wellbeing of people with dementia so they can intervene earlier to help someone avoid a crisis and unnecessary hospital stay. It is also hoped the trial will relieve pressure on carers and help people with dementia to remain independent for longer.

The trial is funded by NHS England and Innovate UK and involves key local partners, including the Alzheimer’s Society, the University of Surrey, Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network and six Surrey and north east Hampshire NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups. Also involved is the Royal Holloway University of London and nine technology innovators.


Non-invasive devices

A total of 1,400 people are being invited to take part in the trial – 700 with dementia and 700 carers. Half of the people with dementia will be randomly selected to receive the technological devices. The remaining half will form the control group and continue with their care as usual.

People receiving the technology will have their homes kitted out with non-invasive devices, such as sensors, apps and trackers. These will connect to each other via the Internet of Things and work together to collect and analyse different pieces of information, that will be securely managed, about a person’s health and patterns of behaviour.

The data will enable the devices to identify if there is a problem. If there is, mental health professionals will be immediately alerted and a decision taken about the action needed. This may mean a clinician is sent out to visit the person or a call is made to the carer.

Devices in the trial include sensors attached to objects such as fridges, kettles and beds. These can, for example, detect if someone is following normal patterns of behaviour for eating and drinking or is at risk of dehydration and whether they are unusually restless at night. The technology will not replace any existing face-to-face contact with health or social care staff.


Changing behaviour

Dr Ramin Nilforooshan, leading dementia specialist at the Trust, said: “The technology is designed to alert us to any changes in behaviour or any changes in wellbeing that could signal someone is becoming unwell or that they are in trouble. For example, they may be developing a urinary tract or lower respiratory infection. We could detect the early signs/symptoms of those infections and successfully treat them at home.

“We know that people with dementia do not respond well to being in hospital – and that their symptoms can worsen in this environment so it is much better if we can treat them before they need to be admitted for acute care.”

The Alzheimer’s Society, which is a partner in TIHM for dementia trial, is recruiting an army of 150 trained volunteers who will keep in regular touch with participants, offering them their support.

To find out more about the trial head to www.sabp.nhs.uk/tihm.

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