Technology Enabled Care

Councillor Helen Holland, smiling with college green, Bristol Cathedral and trees in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and the Integrated Care System and Labour Councillor for Hartcliffe and Withywood ward.

There are many people with long-term health conditions in Bristol who rely on extra support in their homes so that they can live independently for as long as possible. It’s important to our administration that we offer support that enables people to stay in the surroundings they are familiar with, often close to family or friends.

One way we can do this is through Technology Enabled Care (TEC). This a service that takes the approach of introducing technology to a person’s home to help keep people safe and get about with their day to day lives as independently as possible.

The approach we take is a mix of low and high technology use. Often the technology is mixed with a care package to ensure that the benefits of care are maximised and supported by the use of technology.

The type of technology we introduce to the home varies depending on people’s needs. They could include using a Magi-Plug to stop the bath from overflowing or installing a Memo-Minder to help forgetful people by providing reminders when you walk past. There are bed and chair occupancy sensors, temperature sensors, and night lights which switch on when someone gets out of bed.

Recently we’ve also trialled a piece of technology called Blue Box which monitors early signs of deterioration and illness and links wirelessly to carers and doctors in primary care settings who can access the readings in real time. Through innovative technology like this we have seen improvements to people’s health and care as well as large cost efficiencies.

Another way we help people is by using technology to make their life easier, not just at home but also when they are out and about.

Susan* is a good example of someone who benefitted from using technology after a stroke affected her ability to communicate, especially her speech. For those that don’t know her well, Susan can be difficult to understand which is frustrating and embarrassing for her when it happens. It led to her becoming more isolated as she didn’t want to venture out into the community to go to the library or the shops. The TEC Hub team assessed Susan and came up with some options to help. As she was confident using both a phone and a tablet, they suggested using a ‘type to talk’ app, which converts written text into spoken words. The app includes hundreds of pre-programmed phrases which can be quickly accessed making it easier for Susan to hold a simple conversation or to ask for help if needed. It also helped with accidental activation on her pendant alarm as she can now communicate, using the app, over the alarm system to cancel any unnecessary emergency call outs from carers. 

Our next phase of TEC will see us build on the successful work achieved so far while also trialling further technology which will include pilots of:

  • A sensor-based product called ‘Guardian’ used to monitor vulnerable people in their own home. By tracking movements in the home, carers and family members have the reassurance they need without having to be physically at the property all the time.
  • A FitBit style device linked to a patient app that is built to monitor real time patient data to identify risk of falls. This data is published to an online dashboard that can be accessed by both carers and Bristol’s monitoring centre. We will also use more existing technology that people may already be used to such as Alexa devices. They can help reorder prescriptions, check the weather and generally, make those who live alone feel less isolated.
  • A product called Sound Boost which is a wireless speaker and microphone that works with an existing alarm system called Lifeline. The units can be placed in different rooms so if an alarm is raised, Sound Boost will replicate the sounds meaning the resident and monitoring centre can still communicate around the property.

Having Technology Enabled Care (TEC) is proving to be an invaluable resource for Bristol, both in adult services and social care. Since the beginning we have been working in partnership with the Integrated Care Board and Sirona to trial and roll out new devices and we will continue to work together as we enter the next phase of this important work.

In fact, a six-month research trial has just started for hospital patients in Bristol. It will help our NHS partners understand what the most effective methods of TEC currently are and how we can enable patients to rest and recuperate at home more quickly after a stay in hospital.

If you are interested in finding out more about TEC, please go to our webpages on the Bristol City Council website or visit the Sirona Health and Care website.

*For anonymity purposes the name of the individual has been changed.