Digital independence at Bolton Clarke

Bolton Clarke clients using the technology
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This article is part of our showcase of the 2019 Future of Ageing Awards. Bolton Clarke won the category for Technology – Health and Wellbeing.

Bolton Clarke’s Digital Independence project launched in July 2018 with a trial of passive in-home monitoring to support home care clients.

The technology includes a personal help alarm and voice-activated alarm, a falls detection pendant or wristband that links with a smartphone to identify the location of the person who needs help and motion sensors fitted throughout the home to capture movement (such as opening of doors) and send notifications to family when unusual activity occurs and assistance may be required. A mobile app provides visibility of daily routines for family members.

Project Overview

The Digital Independence project aligns with strategies to keep customers living confidently wherever they call home, enable increased engagement and support the delivery of new service models.

Bolton Clarke has around 50,000 At Home Support clients across Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania and around 2,500 retirement living residents.

There is also a significant increase in older people living alone – by 2021 around 24 per cent of Australians living alone will be over 75.

The six-month trial of digital tools helping 77 At Home Support clients and retirement living residents was funded under the 2016 Impact Philanthropy Partnership Program Perpetual Grant, with 90 per cent of participants indicating they plan to keep the technology. It will now be rolled out more broadly across the organisation.

How it came together

In July 2018, Bolton Clarke’s Chief Digital Officer commissioned a project to investigate whether passive in-home monitoring technology would support carers and families to proactively care for clients/loved ones and assist them to ‘age in place’ for longer. 

Prior to commencement of the trial, a proof of concept was undertaken whereby products were installed in several locations and observed for 6-8 weeks. Information from the proof of concept was used by the project team to refine installation procedures and further understand the rules configuration engine, as well as behaviours and alerts generated by the various rules. 

Having this information assisted the project team to have a more confident discussion with the trial participants and their support people (family members) when explaining how and where the products would be installed, and what type of alerts they could expect to see based on different movement and behaviours patterns observed by the sensors.

Both At Home Support and Retirement Living clients were involved in the trial that ran in NSW, Qld and Vic. Around 90 per cent of clients indicated they would like to keep the products after the trial was completed.

Following the successful project, the in-home monitoring technology will be rolled out across the organisation from August 2019.

Outcomes

From a client perspective the system is primarily about ensuring people get help when they need it most, regardless of whether they are at home or out and about.

The system can be customised to suit an individual’s care needs with options for things like dementia, falls risks and general safety.

Sample of an activity map

To get the best information from the system, there is a need to understand how clients live (where they spend most of their time, where they eat meals, which doors they used to enter and leave the house, side of the bed they sleep on, etc) prior to installation so that sensor placement is optimised. Correct sensor placement during installation is critical to obtain reliable behaviour and movement patterns.

From a client’s family or support member point of view, it provides peace of mind to know that their loved one is safe and also that they will be alerted, via the digital platform, to any potential issues before they become major problems.

Of the people who participated in the trial, 90 per cent have indicated that they would like to keep the solution and will commence paying for the service (AHS conversion rate of 91 per cent, RL conversion rate of 89 per cent).

Interviewed family members said the data in the ‘Day story’ was always or mostly accurate (61 per cent to 100 per cent of the time).

Over 80 per cent of family members indicated that the alert notifications received via SMS were accurate more than 61 per cent of the time.

The solution is incredibly flexible and scalable to meet the changing needs of Bolton Clarke’s clients and will be adopted, even though it translates into more work at the outset to get the customisation of the system right for each individual.

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