In under three weeks, a consultant psychiatrist, former A&E doctor and a former NHS Data Analyst along with London designers have created Bluebell InTouch, a new wearable solution that promises remote monitoring of the elderly, that could revolutionise how we approach social care. They have partnered with a social care charity, Crossroads Care Richmond and Kingston upon Thames to start a trial to prove the value Bluebell Intouch for the elderly and vulnerable and make it available as soon as possible.
Sir Vince Cable, Patron of Crossroads Care Richmond and Kingston upon Thames, says “I am delighted to see that Crossroads is extending its work in elderly and disability care using new monitoring and reporting technology. What is needed is not just money from the government but innovative solutions using technology applicable to the sector, applied by charities which understand care needs and the problems of carers.”
Connido, a London-based tech start-up, had integrated multiple sensors: accelerometer, temperature and microphone sensor into one, easy-to-use, wearable solution, that monitors breathing, temperature, position, falls, activity levels, sleep and sound. Using encrypted mesh technology the system is already being used to provide reassurance and support to parents since its launch as a smart baby monitor in 2019 under the brand name, Bluebell.
The team always planned to expand the technology beyond baby monitoring and with the current crisis, they wanted to act quickly. Combining their start-up agility with the experience of their partner, design agency tangerine, they managed to develop a remote continuous monitoring solution concept for the elderly whether living independently in their own home or with a carer, or living in a residential carehome setting.
For Connido co-founder and Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Naveen Sharma the rational behind Bluebell InTouch was clear, “As a psychiatrist, I have looked after elderly people in their homes and care homes; and see the value of the continuous and passive monitoring. So, I feel deeply passionate about Bluebell InTouch’s potential to support elderly people during these critical times, when they are feeling even more isolated and vulnerable.” The designers of Bluebell InTouch, tangerine, are better known for their work on British Airways’ Club World yin-yang business class seats. tangerine‘s CEO, Martin Darbyshire had inspiration much closer to home, when he realised that as a baby monitor, Bluebell had many features that could help look after his 92 year old Mother, who is suffering from vascular dementia, arthritis, and has experienced repeated bouts of infection
“Bluebell is a tool that had a series of really important benefits that would have helped me better understand my mother’s well-being; and looking back, that it could have enabled us to bring in and brief a doctor fully, earlier in the recovery cycle. This could potentially have eliminated the need for lengthy hospital visits that were happening with growing frequency,” says Darbyshire.
The current pandemic poses a serious a threat to the health of the elderly, whose vulnerability due to immune system weakness and underlying health conditions leads to over 80% of fatalities to COVID-19 occuring in the over 65’s1, 2. And as they are required to be shielded, they are being kept away from their loved ones when they need them the most. Social isolation among older adults is in itself a “serious public health concern” with higher risk of physical and mental health problems3.
Given that early identification of symptoms is essential to avoid severe COVID-19 infections2, Bluebell InTouch could also be helpful in a care-home setting, where up to 20 wearables can be connected with one hub, allowing front-line care staff to continuously monitor multiple residents, reducing the risk of cross-infection by decreasing the need for constant face-to-face monitoring, and picking up any short spikes in temperature or changes In breathing that might otherwise be missed.
As more and more people are recovering from COVID-19, the need for post-discharge constant monitoring at home due to ongoing respiratory issues for many patients is becoming clearer. Therefore the hospitals are looking at primary care support by RAPID NHS Response Teams to monitor COVID-19 patients in the community to free up hospital beds. NHS Trusts are rapidly adopting new ways of working, including telehealth and remote monitoring technologies, at a rate unheard of so far.
Whilst, other telehealth and telecare solutions currently exist they often focus on single functionality (e.g., falls alarm) or require multiple devices/sensors that still don’t provide a comprehensive and convenient monitoring of measures that matter.4, 5, 6, 7 What sets Bluebell InTouch apart from other elderly care monitors is the combination of different elements and features, which when used together promises to give family members a real peace of mind.
Crossroads Care Richmond and Kingston upon Thames who are beta testing Bluebell InTouch, is a network partner of Carers Trust, the UK’s leading provider of support for Carers and the people they care for. CEO of Crossroads Care Richmond and Kingston upon Thames, Julie Da Costa, immediately saw the potential of a solution like Bluebell InTouch and says “We have been delivering high standards of care and services for children and adults of all ages and disability for over 30 years, as a charity we work tirelessly to support many people from sectors of society. Bluebell InTouch has the potential to provide a life-line to many of our families in need.” In order to rapidly test, adapt and scale Bluebell InTouch to benefit as many elderly and vulnerable people as possible, the Connido team is now actively looking for funding and further testing partners
1. Imperial College, 2020: Ferguson et al, Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand
2. The Lancet 2020: Ruan, Likelihood of survival of coronavirus disease
3. BMC Geriatrics 2018: Dreyer et al, The association between living alone and health care utilisation in older adults: a retrospective cohort study of electronic health records from a London general practice; Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks, National Institute on Aging, 2019
4. Which Telecare Report
5. Wang et al, A Review of Wearable Technologies for Elderly Care that Can Accurately Track Indoor
6. Position, Recognize Physical Activities and Monitor Vital Signs in Real Time, Researchgate 2017
7. Al-Khafajiy et al, 2019, Remote health monitoring of elderly through wearable sensors, Springer 2019
For further information about Bluebell InTouch trial or partnership opportunities, please contact:
Crossroads Care Richmond and Kingston upon Thames