All systems go
A new suite of health-monitoring technologies and methods is ensuring the safety of seniors
Unlike other seniors her age, 83-year-old Grandma Siri* can now stay at home alone while her family members go to work worry-free, thanks to an elderly-friendly innovation that is the product of joint research by several Thai universities and a Japanese organisation with an aim to provide senior citizens a better quality of life.
Grandma Siri is one of 20 elderly people in Samut Sakhon province, where the "Elderly Ecological System and Services" has been implemented to assist them in their daily lives. The Elderly Ecological System and Services is a pilot project that has been conducted in three hospitals in Thailand -- Banphaeo Hospital, Krathumban Hospital and Samut Sakhon Hospital. It is a project by Research University Network (RUN), led by the School of Information, Computer, and Communication Technology; Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology (SIIT); and Thammasat University. It uses the Mimamori system, developed by Japan-based Advance Information Valuable Service (AIVS).
According to project leader Virach Sornlertlamvanich of SIIT, the system was developed by AIVS of Japan with the financial support of the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA).
The system can monitor the activities of the elderly with multiple sensors and provide regular status updates via Line messaging. In Japan, they update the status and send email alerts when no activities have been detected for a period of time.
In Thailand, Line chat messaging is popular and so the system was designed to connect via Line.
At Banphaeo hospital, nurses in another room can be notified of sudden physical changes in patients on the bed, and for the elderly people who stay at home alone, the system can quickly notify their members via Line messaging.
"We nurses are not keen on technology, but the system was designed to help us simply deal with it," said Kanokwan Sengkhamphar, assistant director at Banphaeo Hospital.
After a year of test runs, the second phase of the project now involves the implementation of the system with 20 units at the elderly ward in Banphaeo Hospital and 20 units at homes where elderly stay alone all the time and some where family members work outside. Many of the elderly here suffer from Alzheimer's disease.
The system can detect accidents when the care provider is not present, thus providing peace of mind to both the patient and management.
Kanokwan said an alert can be sent to up to five people who are caregivers.
"First its sensor alarms, then it alerts caregivers and the care manager, but it found that a grandmother once accidentally pressed the button. The second time, at the same home, the system could detect that the elderly person fainted, so we sent an ambulance to the home immediately."
According to Virach, this research project supports the elderly in their daily life activities. Some of the achievements exhibited in the systems will be the elderly total caring system, which is the bed-fallout preventive alarm and sleep-hygiene monitoring system as well as the vital signal-analysis tools; the health-monitoring system; dementia and Alzheimer's patient-tracking system; drug-use assistance; elderly ecological model and ageing society design; and health-information platform for health-data collection and analytics.
The system can send an alert when the room temperature and humidity have reached levels high enough to cause heat stroke, or send an alert via Line when an occupant falls down in a room or bath.
The sensors, beneath the mattress, are all wireless and need no cable installation, said Virach, adding that the sensors are all equipped with solar panels and the batteries never need to be changed. There is no need for an internet connection or telephone line.
"The system can greatly help us due to our limited workforce in nursing, as the sensors allow automatic notification of irregularities, enabling swift support even when the patient is unable to ask for help," added Kanokwan.
The research team also developed an application allowing a search for hospitals and doctors, making an appointment and viewing appointment status, saving favourite doctors, online medical results, family member information management and buying medical packages online.
The Research University Network (RUN) digital cluster is a co-research and resource sharing entity for capacity building and new business development. RUN is comprised of eight universities in Thailand: Chulalongkorn, Kasetsart, Mahidol, Thammasat, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Prince of Songkla and Naresuan.
*not her real name.
Virach: 'The system can monitor activities with multiple sensors and provide regular status updates via Line messaging.' SIIT