In many parts of the world, people are living longer. As health and physical performance deteriorates, help is needed, but employing a full-time nurse can be costly. New developments in communications technology is providing alternatives, such as GiraffPlus. This is a pan-European, EU-funded project that uses technology to monitor the elderly in their own homes. The system has already been tested in a demo apartment in Örebro, Sweden. Now GiraffPlus is being taken further afield to be tested in real homes in see Sweden, Italy and Spain.
The hub of the system and the interface between user and care giver is the remote-controlled Giraff mobile robot. Already being used in other remote healthcare projects, this "Skype on wheels" features a display and loudspeaker that allows healthcare professionals to make virtual house call.
The GiraffPlus system uses sensors to collect data from patients. It can monitor blood pressure, body temperature, movements and even detect abnormal behavior patterns, such as when a patient is still for long periods or has taken a fall. The information is then analyzed and quickly passed on to a nurse in case of emergency. The network can be configured to meet the specific needs of the user or users, at the time of their choice, and the data collected can also help health providers create a timeline of the patient’s health status.
"The system is designed to be able to, for instance, chart an individual’s sleeping pattern," says project coordinator Professor Silvia Coradeschi. "By measuring the level of activity in the apartment during the night, the system helps both the patient and the caregiver to form a picture of the situation and adequate measures can be introduced."
Besides offering safety to elderly people by connecting them 24/7 to caregivers, one of the goals of the GiraffPlus project is to reduce healthcare costs, since the constant monitoring means certain health issues can be addressed at earlier stages. The cost of the system itself is also an issue which the researchers hope to address by using off the shelf components.
The real-life tests will help the researchers take the project further and assess the actual usefulness and user-friendliness of the system. They hope that the planned testing in a total of 15 different homes will be concluded by 2014.
The project is coordinated by Örebro University.
Source: Örebro University
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