Innovative use of old technology

The winning program in the latest hackathon striving to come up with solutions to improve the quality of life of elderly people in a short time frame makes use of the relatively low-tech household telephone.

The winning program at the most recent hackathon focused on devising solutions to improve the quality of life of older people makes use of the relatively low-tech household telephone, which is perfect for the current generation of older Australian seniors, according to an industry expert and event judge.

Hackathons of this nature can contribute to meeting the challenges facing the aged care sector and an ageing population, said Chris Gray, iCarehealth managing director and one of the seven judges at IBM and HealthXL’s recent “Hack Ageing” in Melbourne.

Multi-disciplinary teams developed 18 solutions over 48 hours in response to a challenge to address issues related to dementia, social isolation, physical activity and malnutrition among seniors.

It involved more than 150 clinicians, software developers, hardware engineers, designers, business minds and consumers working with aged health experts from HealthXL, Victoria’s Northern Health and Alzheimer’s Australia, plus health researchers and technical experts from IBM.

First prize went to TeleXHealth for its automated telephone service where elderly people can confidentially share key health information, such as weight, blood sugar, blood pressure. The information is digitally recorded, analysed and tracked on a dashboard, and can be accessed by the patient, their doctor, family or carer via a mobile application.

TeleXHealth now has the opportunity to work with clinicians and community care providers in the Northern Health hospital network to refine and complete a prototype for trialling with patient groups.

Other category winners were Olive, a system that monitors and tracks the elderly driver behaviour, such as location, speed, braking and distance from other vehicles, to ensure their safety and ultimately enable them to retain their license for as long as safe.

And for its ability to combat malnutrition, Heston, an online personalised meal-planning application for dietitians that analyses patients’ personal information including previous and current medical history, food likes and dislikes and weight goals.

Fit for purpose

Chris Gray
Chris Gray

Mr Gray said the standout quality of the winning solution was the use of the telephone because it acknowledged that despite the increasing uptake of technology not everybody in the community used mobile devices and the internet.

“The reality is that the people in that cohort of very elderly at the moment don’t really use that, but they do use a telephone,” Mr Gray told Technology Review.

“The technology is invisible to them in the background and doing all the recording.”

Mr Gray said all the solutions presented at the event were of a high standard and relevant to the aged care industry.

“My expectations were exceed by the solutions that I saw and the thought and the work that people put in over the weekend.”

He said this type of event had the potential to benefit the sector because it brought all the right people together and demonstrated the possible. “They show very innovative solutions to problems that we are seeing within the aged care industry. With the known problems of the ageing nation, to have a have technology hackathon focused just on three problems within aged care was fantastic.”

A new path to innovation

In what could be the start of a growing trend, Hack Ageing is the second event of its kind this year and follows innovAGE, a hackathon hosted by Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) over two weekends in March and May in Canberra.

“A real strength of innovAGE has been the quality of the ideas provided from those inside the industry along with insights and application of concepts unknown to aged care before this event,” LASA CEO Patrick Reid said following the event.

The quality of participants has also been highlighted at the Melbourne event.

martin Kelly HealthXL
Martin Kelly

HealthXL CEO Martin Kelly said he was impressed with the entrepreneurial community in Melbourne and the level of collaboration that made the hackathon a success.

While HealthXL, a global market for health innovations based in Dublin, has run other digital health events this is the first they have done on ageing and aged care.

Prior to the event, Mr Kelly said they spent around six months working with the geriatricians and chief medical officer at Northern Health to try and understand the types of individuals and their needs.

It is the first time we have done it so it is a bit of an experiment but we wanted to see if you bring together these different groups can you get to better solutions quicker,” Mr Kelly told Technology Review.

“Ultimately the test of that is that Northern Health will pilot with the winning solution.”

For an in-depth report on the impact of hackathons on innovation in the aged care sector, see the September edition of Technology Review magazine.

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Tags: chris-gray, hack-ageing, hackathon, health-xl, martin-kelly, northern-health, patrick-reid,

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