A large aged care provider is using heat mapping technology to help staff respond more quickly and a voice activated support system to help calm residents and provide information, an industry conference heard.

For-profit aged care provider Japara is developing a new system that uses heat mapping video cameras to monitor residents’ movements and virtual assistant technology, such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa, to provide on demand support.

The system aims to proactively improve communication to residents and families, person-centred care and consistency of care delivery, said Karina Peace, Japara Healthcare group Aged Care Funding Instrument manager.

She said the current aged care environment of ongoing care and funding reforms, new standards and consumer directed care placed providers in a position of being primarily reactive to challenges.

“We need to be proactive, we need to take the bull by the horns and we need to drive our own industry,” Ms Peace told the Aged and Community Services Australia National Summit earlier this month.

The solution involves using heat mapping closed circuit cameras in residents’ bedrooms to monitor a resident’s location and increased movements in bed.

Karina Peace

When triggered, the system alerts the nurse on duty immediately through the nurse call system. It then gently lightens the bedroom and turns on the bathroom light to help orient the resident to their environment, Ms Peace said.

“The nurse… will be alerted in real time, reducing any dead space or reducing any risks of falls, and they will be able to provide care in a timely manner,” she said.

At the same time, the Google Home or Amazon Alexa virtual assistant installed in the bedroom will be listening to the resident to provide assistance if needed.

“If you’re calling out ‘where am I?’ or ‘help me’, the virtual assistant will be able to provide you with calming instructions, such as ‘a nurse is on the way’, ‘you are at so and so aged care’ or ‘it’s 12:00 at night,” Ms Peace said.

“You can personalise the voice on… the virtual assistant… to a comforting voice of your son or your daughter, so you’re not so scared by a robot responding to you in the dark,” Ms Peace said.

The system also supports tablets and other electronic devices that residents can use to order items such as drinks.

It is important to keep innovating because aged care is changing rapidly, Ms Peace said.

“It is our thought at Japara that as an industry, if we cannot afford to innovate then we stay the same, and we can’t afford to stay the same,” she said.

Japara is working with industry technology partners to finalise the system and expects to be commencing trials in the near future, Ms Peace said.

The system design was informed by four Monash University students undertaking engineering, information technology and robotics degrees who interned on the project over 12 weeks in 2018 and 2019.

The ACSA National Summit was held at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre on 8-10 October.

Read more from the ACSA National Summit

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Colbeck calls for sector to positively promote aged care work

Provider spent years finding the way back to its purpose

ACSA honours aged care’s best

Read Community Care Review’s summit coverage

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Provider told to brace for impact of pricing changes

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