The emergence of more powerful computers, near-ubiquitous mobile broadband and cloud computing has created exponential change across every industry and society. Increasingly, we are seeing the convergence of physical and cyber systems, what society has termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT, combined with advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence will fundamentally change society in the next five years with the commercialisation of autonomous vehicles, sensor-based health monitoring and ‘smart-homes’.
The aged care services industry is neither exempt nor oblivious to this change. In February 2014, The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council and Accenture jointly released a vision for information technology across aged care services. This vision identified five ‘ICT Pillars’ that will enable the industry to build capacity, and adjust to ‘the new environment’. In 2016, Flinders University was commissioned to build on this vision, and outline an IT Roadmap that would support the execution of the Aged Care Sector Roadmap released earlier that year. This work is currently underway, with extensive consultation occurring at the Information in Aged Care Conference in November 2016.
In this article, I outline how advancements in the IoT and artificial intelligence have the potential to support carers of older Australians, as well as the long-term sustainability of informal care. This was the topic of a recent presentation at the Melbourne Accelerator Program’s Social Impact Showcase, where Umps Health was were awarded the Gourlay-Trinity Impact Prize for ‘demonstrating exceptional knowledge in a social issue’.
The “Carers’ Workflow”
To demonstrate the capability of IoT and artificial intelligence, it is helpful to think of the workflow of a carer in the following stages:
- Gathering data: In order to provide care, a carer must first obtain data about the wellbeing of an individual. This could be through phone calls or a visit to the person. Other examples are the Red Cross TeleCross service, which call more than 9000 Australians every day or the button people press once a day when they use a personal alarm service.
- Analysing and interpreting the data: This data must then be analysed in the context of past behaviour and health history. Does a missed phone call indicate someone has fallen in their home or are they out for a coffee with friends? If a person says they are OK, are they actually OK or are they simply trying not to worry me? We might not think about this explicitly, but we are subconsciously making an assessment when there is an abnormality in the data.
- Determining a recommended course of action: If a carer interprets the data as unusual, they will evaluate options and decide on a course of action. This may be to make a visit to their relative, scheduling an appointment with a doctor or a call to emergency services.
- Implementing the course of action: After a carer has determined the appropriate course of action, they will deliver that action. This is the intrinsically human component of caring, and could be as simple as physical or emotional comfort or driving someone to the doctor. In the event they need to consult a third party, the entire workflow will commence once again.
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