The digital transformation has begun – but how accessible is it to care homes? The team at August International reveal all.

Digital transformation is a phenomenon sweeping across a number of industries in the UK, including the care sector. With staff turnover as high as 40% and a projected 26% increase in residents requiring care homes by 2035, digital solutions are being embraced in an effort to maximise staff work efficiency, make care work more inviting, and shift the focus away from logistics and back to care.

How accessible is the transformation to smaller care homes right now, and what technology specifically will make the digital transformation possible on such a small scale?

The Barriers to Digital Transformation

Staff Time – If a 30-bed care home wanted to increase vital sign measurement efficiency to that of, for example, a Band 4 NHS Nurse, then the estimated cost would be over £18,000 per year with 665 hours of working time. A small care home simply does not have enough nursing work hours to achieve this.

Technology Cost – While a large care home group can pool resources and focus on one of their care homes before expanding the transformation to others in that group, a smaller group or standalone care home has no such luxury (and no such funding).

Pre-requisite Infrastructure – All current remote health monitors, for example, require apps and Bluetooth for data communication and storage. This is a way in which a digital transformation can incur hidden costs such as needing the right smartphone to access an app. For a care home with minimal digital presence, where do they begin?

Making The Transformation Accessible

Lowering the Bar to Entry

Most technology being trialled and developed for telehealth and digital healthcare is pushing the boundary, seeing how far we incorporate digital solutions into all aspects of care. However, there is something to be said for lowering the bar to entry rather than raising the bar of accomplishment. Making one care home “the best” isn’t as beneficial as making all care homes “better”.

What is IoT?

An IoT (“Internet of Things”) device has in-built network connectivity, meaning you don’t need a wi-fi network or a paired Bluetooth device per monitor. Instead, the device works independently via an embedded Narrowband SIM card. Devices are connected worldwide; in just the same way you can send a text.

IoT and the Care Sector

The use of this technology in the care sector is an innovation of local Hertfordshire company August International and their health division: AUDAR Health. The result is the AUDAR E2, a bespoke standalone device with no app requirements, half-hourly measurements and 10 days of working time on a single charge thanks to the research efforts of University of Essex Alumni and seasoned engineers.

Currently in use by a care home group in Kent, the E2 is already showcasing how IoT technology can be seamlessly incorporated into a home and how IoT advancements could solve the barriers to transformation.

How IoT Devices Make Remote Healthcare a Reality

Remove “Care Gaps” and Reduce Mortality Rates

In the UK, the average frequency of vital sign check-ups per resident in residential care homes is as low as once per month. For home care, the average is even lower.

This shockingly low engagement rate with residents has led to tragic oversights and lack of preventative care such as in the recent case of Bronson Battersby, an infant who passed after their father suffered a sudden heart attack and was not checked on until over a week afterwards. A lack of affirmation about the status of the father was one factor in the slow response time, and a remote solution such as AUDAR E2 could provide carers with the data they need to encourage a swifter emergency response in these situations.

Improve Measurement Efficiency without Staff Cost

Remote health monitoring devices can provide nurses with more data to work with, for a fraction of the cost of hiring additional staff to perform those measurements. For 82% less expenditure, IoT devices provide nurses with greater context of a resident’s health, as they can view up to 48 measurements per day, per vital sign, per patient. All of this data is accessible from day 1, and available historically from that point forward. This can give an overview of health trends in a single glance without adding hours of working time.

Integrate Seamlessly into Any Care Home

Complete brand-ambivalence and seamless integration are two of the largest ways IoT technology makes digital transformation accessible.

IoT devices connect independently via internal SIM, with no app or smartphone required. In fact, the devices don’t need a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection either. These prerequisites can often hamper a smaller care home, but using IoT bypasses those requirements and enables direct data from the moment the technology is on a resident’s wrist.

Data is sent through mobile networks such as NB-IoT and LTE-M just like you’d send a text, and that means any care home can integrate an IoT remote health monitor regardless of its current digital state. The AUDAR Health Dashboard exists online, rather than in an app, and so can be accessed from any device with a screen and an internet connection.

This is why IoT technology is the key to the future of digital health. An IoT health watch like the AUDAR E2 can send data independently to either the AUDAR Health servers or directly to a care home’s current management system. The technology is truly adaptive, allowing small care homes to use the AUDAR servers, or large care homes to use their own established systems.

Increase Resident Comfort with Unintrusive Monitoring

The accessibility of devices and initiatives in the digital transformation is double-edged. On the one hand, the device needs to be easy to access from the staff’s perspective. This means seamless integration with any current system, easy-to-read data such as daily reports and graphs, and no prerequisites such as apps or specific network requirements.

On the other hand, the device needs to be easy to use from a resident and patient standpoint. This means comfortable wearable technology, minimal manual activation or navigation of menus, no account details to remember and unintrusive application of the system.

An IoT approach meets both of these requirements. A prime example is the “Care Suite” concept, which utilises the AUDAR E2 watch as well as unintrusive wall-mounted sensors and bed sensors to create a measurement system without any practical difference from a normal care home room. For example, measurements taken at night can be performed more regularly, without the need to disturb the resident.

Wearable Tehcnology with Minimal Resident Input

The E2, specifically, features an easy magnetic strap which ensures the device can be tight enough for measurements while loose enough for comfort, as well as making the process of putting it on accessible to those with limited fine motor function. The magnetic strap simply holds itself on, with no precise holes for clasps or buckles.

The development of battery-saving algorithms has resulted in a working time of 10 days, which leads to minimal fuss and recharging for residents. Technology such as skin-contact checks, independent PPG sensor activations and removal of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi chip requirements all added to this pioneering battery life.

In addition, the AUDAR Health dashboard allows staff to set measurement frequency, deviation ranges, view SOS and vital sign history as well as change resident metrics such as height and weight. This means quality of care can improve as staff account for resident health remotely, without having to come in-person and remove the watch, reprogram it, and then return it to the resident. This also means the resident doesn’t need reminders to set up a measurement, the admin is all handled remotely which encourages independence and relaxation for the resident.

The World’s First IoT Remote Vital Sign Monitor

It is by using IoT networks and creating a truly bespoke, standalone device that August aims to break the accessibility barriers for smaller care homes. The AUDAR E2 aims to be that hardware, an accessible and scalable remote monitor that even individual consumers can use if they choose.