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Building the case for sensors in home care

Smart home sensors that monitor a person’s activities of daily living in their own home should become a standard feature of government-subsidised home care services, according to the CSIRO and a multitude of stakeholders.

The vision is one step closer to reality with a trial underway in five homes on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast looking at how to integrate the CSIRO’s Smarter Safer Homes assistive technology into existing service provider models.

The collaboration between the CSIRO, Global Community Resourcing and Sunshine Coast provider Bromilow Home Support Services, which began in November, builds on previous CSIRO trials that focused on developing the off-the-shelf broadband-connected Smarter Safer Home technology to enable older people to live independently safer and longer in their own homes.

The Sunshine Coast trial, which is stretching the assistive technology application to include people with a disability, involves sensors such as motion and heat detectors that report on the client’s physical environment to provide a picture of their movements and activities.

David Hansen CSIRO

Dr David Hansen

This type of assistive technology will need to be a standard feature in home care services of the future, said Dr David Hansen, CEO of the Australian e-Health Research Centre at CSIRO, which has been supervising the project.

“It is the only way we are going to be able to deal with the ageing demographic we have in Australia. As well, it offers something different as part of the NDIS,” Dr Hansen told Australian Ageing Agenda.

While the current trial is operating on a small scale, Dr Hansen said it was intended to generate interest for further and more widespread trials as soon as the first half of this year.

He said they were beginning to understand how the Smarter Safer Home technology fitted into existing service models to make a big difference to the lives of client and carer.

“How we reflect that back into something that either fits within government funding or something people are willing to pay extra money for or provides productivity gains for the service providers is really what we are looking at,” he said.

Research to practice

The trial has been facilitated by Global Community Resourcing to assist the CSIRO integrate its technology into practice and quantify the value of enabling assistive technology in community care settings, said Anne Livingstone, research and development lead at Global Community Resourcing.

“We have been looking at the economic impact particularly on funding models like packaged care, national respite for carers and HACC,” Ms Livingstone told AAA.

“A lot of people see technology currently as a bit of a bolt on in the system rather than an integrated part of service delivery,” she said.

Ms Livingstone said they were looking at quality, client empowerment and client impact as well as exploring the service provider perspective on shifting practice from traditional hands-on patterns to technology enhanced services that might get greater outcomes for individuals and service providers.

She said they were also particularly interested in the impact on carers, which was already proving to be “huge” for one of the carers involved in the trial.

Dr Eleanor Horton, who is a senior lecturer in Nursing at Sunshine Coast University, said she was able to continue her teaching and research only because she and Bromilow staff could use the CSIRO technology to monitor and maintain the health and safety of her husband Patrick who lives at home after a serious stroke.

“As an expert in aged and nursing care and workforce issues, and most importantly as a working carer benefiting from this technology, I’d like to see this care available to the hundreds of thousands of Australians with a disability or care need who can be assisted to remain safe and independent in their home,” Dr Horton said.

CSIRO Sensor network approach

The CSIRO’s sensor network approach.

Bromilow Home Support Services CEO Paul Hawting is similarly pleased with the trial and the CSIRO’s technology, which is being utilised by the provider’s clinicians and home care workers.

“We know that this home care sensor technology has the potential to maximise assistance with the efficient use of clinical and care workers, and we are seeking funding for its widespread availability,” Mr Hawting said.

Ms Livingstone said the use of this technology had the potential to provide huge savings to governments compared to hospital and aged care expenditure.

Like Dr Hansen, she said assistive technology should be a feature of home care services in Australia just as it already was in international practice.

“In many international settings home care clients may get assessment for technology prior to getting an assessment for a set of hands and traditional care,” she said.


Tying in with the Aged Care Industry IT Council’s aim of thinking big but acting small with scalability in mind, Ms Livingstone said this project has implemented interventions with an aim to provide services across whole of populations rather than in isolation. She described the Sunshine Coast project as a springboard for a larger state-wide implementation.

“We have enough evidence in the small scale isolated projects that we have done but we have no evidence trying to impact the whole of community,” she said.

Dr Hansen said they were keen to work with as many people as they could to take the service to a commercial offering in as soon as 12 months but more realistically in two-to-five years.

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4 Responses to Building the case for sensors in home care

  1. John Greig January 15, 2015 at 7:36 pm #

    What a great idea! It should really help in allocating resources to those who need it most.

  2. desleigh lane January 20, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    Article very informative and interesting, the future development of IT in the care of aged and seniors in their own homes. Consideration for the clients, and supporting their understanding of the technology a priority, but, long term, a modern aspect for all to encompass

  3. John Williams January 21, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    It is a good article and nicely elucidates where technology is heading vey quickly. The Internet of Things is a phrase of the moment but does reflect on the growing use of small sensors which can be adapted to monitor almost anything which might impact on the well being of the person who lives an independent life.

    These sensors and the smart software that can gather all the inputs and convert that data into meaningful form, are here already, in use, and proving their worth.
    The acid test is what do you do with this data? No good logging it all if it is not used. We recognised early that smart alerts and probability profiles are essential end outcomes for this type of technology.
    It can only get smarter!

  4. Luke Kendall August 17, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

    I agree, this sounds like good technology, and it’s both urgently and increasingly needed. I think it also has strong possibilities for future inclusion in the homes of older people living alone (or dementia sufferers), and should be enormously valuable in allowing the elderly to stay happy and safe in their own home for the longest possible time.
    I can also imagine a whole range of uses for family members who would like to be “on call” should their older relative need help.
    The key challenge I see is in making the technologies friendly and empowering for the older individual, rather than threatening and privacy-invading. But keeping the knowledge contained in a computer on premises, and only allowing restricted summary information to be provided to a nominated set of carers would go a long way to addressing that.

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