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Wearable sensing technology coming to the fore to improve wellbeing in aged care

The wellbeing of older people in residential aged care might improve soon due to the development of new health monitoring technologies.

Together with the NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN) and Australian small businesses, a project has started to innovative those sensor technologies combined with artificial intelligence to provide accurate health data to carers quickly.

Businesses such as Vlepis, Allambie Heights and CARETEQ will work on a $1.48 million project with research teams from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). 

Vlepis CEO Bill Dimopoulos told Aged Care Insite that the project hopes to deliver "low-cost, unobtrusive wearable sensors that will actively monitor biomarkers such as heart rate, blood oxygenation and temperature".

"Today's technology is very manual; it's very siloed and haphazard," Dimopoulos said.

"Some residential aged-care providers or care-in-the-home providers have some degree of technology, but it's not connected.

"We aim to build an integrated smart triaging platform that leverages data science and new Australian-manufactured sensing technologies to automatically identify health and wellbeing events that notify the relevant care staff."

The proportion of Australians aged over 60 is expected to double by 2031, putting pressure on the aged care industry with surging anticipated costs beyond $40 billion. 

The Royal Commission's Report called for technological innovation by establishing the Aged Care Research and Innovation Fund and allocating 1.8 per cent of the government's total annual expenditure on aged care.

Improved sensing technology can offer a vital supportive role in the sector, such as early detection of health risks. 

"We've tried to design a simple way to stick a practical patch or plaster style form factor on an elderly person, they're not threatened by it, which then passes on wellbeing KPIs to insights tools, where carers, nurses, management staff can then act on that data," Dimopoulos said.

"So, if someone has a fever and the temperature is measured, the provider can act upon it.

"They can say: 'All right. We need to visit Mrs Smith more frequently. A social care worker needs to sit down with her and make sure that she's taking her medicines and that she's not deteriorating to a point where it becomes an emergency,' which usually happens with things like UTIs and other preventative illnesses."

Dimopoulos said the technology industry needs to back up the aged care sector and continue to look at the big picture by working closely with key organisations like NSSN and the Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council.

"If we target our efforts based on strengths that organisations have and collaborate effectively, we can get the bigger picture outcomes rather than just solving a problem and then working on the next.

"Then, [we can] create the tools that help aged care facilities and related organisations operate better."

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