Every wearable pings a precise location every second (that’s a lot of data). My role is to turn those coordinates into answers for questions being asked by care providers and families, in real time, and over long periods, as behavioural patterns are formed, and change.
I’ve been practicing as a designer for over a decade, working across many sectors, listening to, and solving problems for my clients. UX has been a focus of mine, with human behaviour and the human experience at the centre of my curiosity. I have always valued being connected to my community, and am driven by impact over profit.
With community hubs in our sights, I first sought to observe human behaviour in public arts spaces, but my interest was quickly piqued in February this year when I read Royal Commission into Aged Care’s preliminary findings. It was clear that the sector could benefit from a system which provided accountability, transparency and insights. Subsequently, conversations with aged care providers were immediately engaging.
During a call with a dementia consultant in late February, I was asked if we could report on falls. Knowing the capabilities of the sensor technology we were using, I asked the consultant to hold for one moment, and asked our CTO if we were capturing Z axis coordinates. Cue Andrew: “Yeah why?” I returned to the call and reported that we could geofence for falls, and send real time alerts to care staff. As simply as that, we tumbled into a stream of problem solving within the aged care environment, which saw us listening, solving, and responding with solutions.
We were asked if our solution could determine when a consumer rolled over in bed during the night. Again I asked why. Within the clinical environment 85% of falls occurred during the night when consumers were moving from their bed to their bathroom and back. We set up a test scenario, and were able to geofence the bed and send a real time alert when a person rolled, or moved to the edge of the bed. Staff assisting consumers to the bathroom and back mitigated the risk of night falls. We also offered a ‘trip counter’ tally which created a ‘normal pattern’ of night time bathroom behaviour. If the consumer’s behaviour changed over time, we were able to offer an alert which drew attention to the potential risk of UTI or kidney infection.
Technology can provide evidence-driven insights in the place of previously unreliable anecdotal evidence. The ability to report accurately in real-time, and provide powerful temporal analytics is a game changer in a dynamic age services sector with room for improvement.
Injection of funding and greater regulation is a positive start, but the sector needs more. We need new perspectives on existing problems. An opportunity may include aged care providers and policy makers innovating through a collaborative data-driven approach to the problems presented, whilst being mindful of data users’ needs and wants.
When it comes to data visualisation and analytics, one size does not fit all. The outcomes of the night-fall mitigation solution resulted in real-time alerts to staff who are on the floor of a facility and most likely in the middle of another task. Our goal is minimising their time within the system and maximising their impact away from the system.
The same data is simultaneously available to clinical governance, where we can show how many incidents occur each night, and the average time between an alert and attending to an incident. Here, we provide tools which allow for the extrapolation of insights outside of those automated by the system. Further, the data is funnelled to families to create a sense of connectivity and peace of mind for the loved ones of consumers. This requires another complete shift in communication of data, where the analytics are presented to an audience seeking assurance, whose outcomes are matters of the heart.
Identifying and reframing sector challenges that have not yet been solved cannot be done by one person or organisation. To this end, from executives, advocacy groups and families, to clinical and non-clinical staff, there needs to be constructive collaboration.
Using smart data, and being in-tune with users and their needs, we can propel aged services in Australia to where it needs to be. To a place where quality consumer-centric care is provided in a manner which advocates the dignity, and agency our ageing population is entitled to.