Jonny Bottomley, co-founder and CEO of Edyn.Care, on how we can leverage technology to provide better care services.

In 2018 we saw the worst of what technology can bring into our lives. We’ve learned how our data can be harvested to influence democratic elections, how devices can cause addiction and how an online existence can have a detrimental effect on the way we relate to each other in real life. While it is difficult to ignore the societal ills that technology can cause, the power of tech to transform our lives for the better is still enormous and will reach higher levels of greatness in the new year that approaches.

If you are not familiar with the expression “tech for good” by now, you should start getting used to it. The phrase was first popularised in the UK by Paul Miller, CEO at Bethnal Green Ventures, and has special meaning when applied to the care sector. Tech for good startups can do a lot when it comes to providing care to communities across the country, especially to those growing older.

The UK population is ageing. By 2040 one in seven people are projected to be aged over 75, according to a government report. People are living longer and the need for quality care services will increase substantially in the coming years, forcing the sector to modernise processes to meet demand. And here’s where technology can do good.

Advancements in technology will help the elderly to have a better quality of life as tech is driving us into an era of personal and proactive care, moving away from the traditional models of monolithic and reactive care. In this new era, companies will provide people with solutions that are more tailored to what they need. Personal data will enable users (and their support teams) to take greater control of their health and AI will enable doctors to be more accurate and efficient. We are years, not decades away from being able to monitor your body in the same way we currently monitor a car. Genome sequencing, nanotechnology and wearables are going to lead a revolution in health and care in ways that are currently unimaginable.

Genome sequencing

Thanks to the progress in technology, the cost of genome sequencing was vastly reduced in the last decade. Back in 2003, when the first draft of the human genome was revealed, the cost of such an experiment was over £1.95 billion in a process that took around 10 years to be completed. Today, you can analyse and run a whole test for around £600.

This means we are getting close to an era in which it will be possible to offer personalised medicine to individuals while having broad data sets to see how different diseases affect different people. The effects this can have in the health industry are immense.

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology has been leading the revolution in the health industry. The gains in the field brought us medicine that’s more effective and sensors that can accurately identify cells or substances in the body, making it easier to diagnose patients.

While experts in the field continue to study ways in which nanotechnology can be perfected and implemented into our daily lives it’s undeniable that it can help the elderly to live longer and better lives.

Wearables

Alongside nanotechnology, wearables have greatly contributed to improving care. Devices such as the Apple Watch or the FitBit provide invaluable data as they record information in real-time and can be used to monitor vital signals. In 2018 a basic smartwatch has a medical grade heart monitor which can be used to detect and diagnose heart arrhythmia.

In care, however, technology can’t act alone. It’s imperative that while tech gives us access to an array of information and data we still have actual humans to implement the best solution of care that will fit our needs.

At edyn.care we are working on ways of using technology and the human touch to complement each other. We are currently connecting our carers and clients using our smart matching algorithm that looks at more than just care needs. During our care consultation we gather information about our clients and carers interests, personality traits, likes and dislikes and use this effectively to tell our care specialists which carer is most aligned with which client. Technology can help create the foundation of a long-last relationship.

Another process we are working on is recording wellness scores via our carers about our clients. Equipped with their smartphones, carers can input information about our clients which can be fed back to care specialists in real time. We are currently looking at six verticals – mood, sleep quality, diet, bowel movement, comfort and mobility. By using this scores we are able to spot anomalies and triage users to correct source of help.

Through wearables, wellness scores and machine-learning technology, we are hoping to use the data collected to proactively address care recipients’ issues, such as deterioration in mood, rising pain levels and increasing blood pressure. By being responsive and able to foresee potential problems, there’s the possibility of escalating and taking action before a condition becomes critical and provide proactive care.

While a tech-driven approach can be beneficial to the elderly, we need to ensure we are building tools that address their problems and give them thoughtful solutions. One of the biggest problems our ageing population is facing is isolation. Suffering from loneliness is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day to your health. Peer to peer support is crucial. People interact with one another based on common interests, shared identities and social movements. The internet has enabled individuals to come together, but it is up to them, and to us, to keep their communities – both online and offline – alive.