Effective tech ‘comes down to humanising the individual’

The context is crucial to the successful deployment of innovation and technology in the ageing space, says a digital health expert.

Understanding the context – including by collecting much more information at the human level – is the key to successful deployment of innovation and technology with older people, according to an international digital health expert.

Dr Jon Warner is the United States ambassador of European Connected Health Alliance Group, which broader these days than the name suggests includes a network of more than 75 digital health ecosystems in over 40 countries around the world including Australia.

A healthy ageing advocate, Dr Warner has been working in healthcare since the mid-1990s and in the ageing innovation space for the last 12 years.

“I don’t believe in technology for technology’s sake. We spend way too much time falling in love with the cool tech without thinking contextually about all the things we should be considering before we deploy it,” Dr Warner told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Jon Warner

Next week, Dr Warner is heading from his base in the US to the Gold Coast to address aged care delegates at the Innovation and Technology Across Care Conference. His key message: “Let’s think about innovation and technology and context much more than we do.”

It all “comes down to humanising the individual” and understanding where they are, said Dr Warner. That includes things like demographics and living situation, infrastructure, what people can afford and what they do and don’t like.

It is important the innovation or technology suits individuals and everyone – not a cohort of people in general, he said. “And for that we need to be collecting much more data at the human level than we do because we should not have proxies for who the human is.”

Regardless of the sub-sector of aged care an ITAC delegate works in, or their role in the business, the message is the same when looking though a human-centred design lens, said Dr Warner.

“If you don’t analyse who the humans are, you’re not going to get a very good result. And you can’t just deploy any innovation or technology across the whole population, even if you’ve got 1,000 people in your facility.”

Start by thinking contextually, Dr Warner reiterated. “What do I need to know about either this individual or this group or this population that I’m serving? And how is it nuanced in certain ways that may make my solution either more useful to all of them or adaptable to them?”

He provides the example of eyesight with glasses. “I’m looking through 3x lenses and yours is 2x. We better make sure that what I’m looking at in terms of reading the small type is changeable easily on a one-touch basis. Because we’ve analysed and we’ve got individuals with variable eyesight from blind all the way to partially blind to those who can have 20/20 vision.”

It’s the same with hearing, mobility, or any other issue, he said. “It’s context and it’s always individual, group and whole population.”

The 2024 ITAC National Conference takes place on 26-27 March 2024 at the Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast, Queensland.

Australian Ageing Agenda is the official publication of the ITAC 2024 National Conference

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Tags: ECH Alliance, human centred design, ITAC 2024, Jon Warner, technology,

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