Power to the people: A Long Term Care Revolution

Fuelled by the growth of electronic medical records, according to The Telegraph people of all ages are waking up to the potential of patient power – Silver surfers are now demanding digital health services.

The charge that the UK’s institutional long term care system is not fit for purpose has been levelled for a while now by doctors, patients and relatives alike, well there may be some good news on the horizon. The Technology Strategy Board – the UK’s innovation agency – is starting what they are calling a Long Term Care Revolution, which aims to promote radical thinking, risk taking and multidisciplinary approaches to discovering what role enabling technologies can play in empowering individuals and eventually replacing what exists with a dynamic market for affordable solutions.

Easier said than done of course, but this revolution is the brainchild of Jackie Marshall-Balloch, the crusading Lead Specialist for the TSB’s Assisted Living Innovation Platform, who has spent the past year drumming up support from would be revolutionaries across the country and slowly but surely momentum is growing. Jackie’s passion for the Revolution is evident, as is the TSB’s commitment, expressed here by Chief Executive Iain Gray: “Late life care is often regarded as an economic liability but it can actually be an engine for economic growth. This is an expanding market and we need to radically rethink our approach to long-term care provision, providing options that will enable people to live with more dignity and autonomy”.

Six revolutionary healthcare initiatives in the making

To get the Revolution rolling, following a demanding recruitment process, 25 individuals, representing the worlds of enterprise and academia, were brought together for a week-long innovation workshop known as a ‘sandpit’ (pictured – that’s me in the corner with the Dignity is Ours placard), where they were encouraged to dream up potentially game changing ideas for a wide range of affordable and dignified options that challenge the institutional model for long term care.

I attended the sandpit as one of the mentors, responsible for assessing ideas and allocating £2.4 million to underwrite the development of six innovative and potentially risky strategies (as reported in October) and now we can take a look at the winning projects:

RITA, involving Universities of Kent and Portsmouth in collaboration with SMEs Affective State and We Are Snook, will create a digital advocate in the form of a humanised avatar, providing a friendly interface between the individual, family, friends, professionals and services, and which could revolutionise how an individual’s personal, social, emotional and intellectual needs are captured, interpreted and supported.

POPPINS will explore the potential for a virtual currency that will help retailers establish new relationships with a key sector of their customer-base and build up new uses for the high street. Through greater engagement, the project aims to enable older people to feel less isolated and more appreciated as valuable members of the community. Lead partner: Belle Media, London

FLOURISH focuses on reframing the concept of need, and aims to design an intuitive, self-service tool with the potential to improve wellbeing, provide more autonomy and control to the individual, and have a disruptive impact on the current care system. Project team: SMEs Digital Laundry, Cedilla Publishing; Universities of Northumbria and Oxford; Stockholm Environment Institute; and COMPAS (ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society).

ONE PRECIOUS LIFE will be applying the principles of high performance athlete training, service and support to people with long term health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia, stroke-survivors, asthma and arthritis. The results will be assessed for the potential for delivering this approach on a larger scale. Team: Rescon, Going for Independence, Lexilab.

SALTC (Simulating Ageing and Long Term Conditions) flips the long term care problem on its head by using a multimedia simulation to explore acceptance thresholds for specific long term conditions, starting from the final stages of life and working backwards. Through this immersive experience, it will identify the trigger points where external support is needed. Lead partner: Cardiocity, Lancashire.

CASA will create and test commercially viable models of technology-enabled independent living, to make the home a dynamic and responsive environment that helps people maintain enjoyable, independent lives. The solutions will be co-designed by older people, young adults with learning difficulties, dementia and care experts. Team: Leone Services; Institute of Mental Health; Universities of Nottingham and the West of England; Bristol Robotics Laboratory; Sensixa Limited; Swiss Cottage School, Development and Research Centre.

Creative Skills For Life
I’m really excited by some of the work in progress and will report on developments again later this year. If you are familiar with my interest in Creative Skills For Life. you may be wondering what this has to do with the Long Term Care Revolution. CSL is a social venture and campaigning organisation with a mandate of improving the lives and wellbeing of people living with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions, by means of innovative and creative applications of digital technology.

Although our primary focus is supporting young people who have outgrown children’s services and whose needs are not really compatible with today’s adult services, social isolation and loneliness is a shared problem that is becoming more common as our population ages. It would seem logical therefore to explore a form of creativity within the older population that promotes social interaction and this is where the CSL path converges with the Long Term Care Revolution.

Furthermore, like the Technology Strategy Board, CSL is also committed to harnessing the power of public/private sector partnerships to realise exciting new ideas with social impact, and we’re always interested in hearing from independent developers and SMEs with smart ideas that explore the interface between creativity and healthcare. So, if you’ve got something to say do feel free to reach out to ian@creativeskillsforlife.com. You can also stay in touch by clicking on one of the Update buttons above, and/or follow CSL on Twitter, where we shine a spotlight on innovative creative developments in healthcare.

Let the Revolution commence…