International conference in the UK

The aim of the event was to involve stakeholders from the UK into the needs-analysis to identify the special requirements and problems encountered from the demographic changes. The participants came from technology companies and information technology teachers to see how their view of supporting older adults in the community fits with the online survey conducted with the older adults themselves.

The main multiplier was in Aston University but a second event was held in Belgium as part of a related project coordinated by Aston University for older adults in the community. Across the two events, we involved 9  technology companies, including Blackpepper, Capgemini, Holovis, Keynetix, Majestic, Rimilia, Evolyst, BeWell Innovations and Maastricht Instruments, and 30 people coming from those companies, who teach technology, or who research with older adults in the community.

Discussions with attendees explored the following areas and topics:

Stakeholder profiles:

1. Do you work with older adults in the community with any of your products?

2. How do your products help them?

3. Who do you engage with when selling and/or deploying your products?

Sensors and related technology: 

1. How do older adults adopt them?

 

2. How easy is it to sell the concept?

3. How much training do they need?

4. How well do they persist with the sensors and interacting with them?

5. Who installs the products?

6. Do your products require engagement with the wider care network?

7. Who is involved in that network?

8. How do you get the network to understand the role of your products?

9. Who do you need to train to use your products?

a.     Older adults?

b.     Informal carers?

c.     Practitioners?

d.     Any others?

The conclusions from the discussions were that getting people to understand how to use devices and software is a major challenge. Teaching people to use technology is better done through practical demonstrations and exercises but when the devices are sold to the general public, the main way of communicating how to use them is via packaged manuals. However, these manuals are almost always supplemented by online resources where tutorials and videos can be presented, often using the youtube platform. Apps are also increasingly used to deliver the software support via mobile phones or tablets and these are another way of delivering instructions about the devices.

For some companies such as iMotions and BeWell Innovations, they provide platforms for other organisations' technologies and have to produce clear instructions for how to link them. This is complicated by the fact that the external organisations creating the devices will have their own instructions for how to use them and also most likely their own web services for viewing the data. BeWell handles this by providing its own app and then using a series of clear sequential steps for linking each device to the app and thus to BeWell's platform. It is a good example of how integration across devices is becoming essential and how difficult it is to provide clear and unambiguous instructions for doing so.

The multiplier event clearly concluded that the key to solving these problems is simplification, even in the face of increasingly sophisticated functionality. Interfaces designed with the target population involved are essential. However, when the users are not confident or experienced with technology, it is unrealistic to expect them to bootstrap their learning. For healthcare, the goal should be to involve the care team in setting them up and supporting them, which means both the carers and the older adults need to be trained in using the devices. The carers will also effectively be trainers of the older adults and this should be an important consideration in their own training: it should not just be about understanding digital health but also about teaching their patients to understand it.