Ruth Doris: Tech firm using TV sets to care for older people

A Belfast-based age-tech company wants to help older adults to stay living independently in their own homes by supporting better communication with family and healthcare providers, writes Ruth Doris.

Ruth Doris: Tech firm using TV sets to care for older people

A Belfast-based age-tech company wants to help older adults to stay living independently in their own homes by supporting better communication with family and healthcare providers, writes Ruth Doris

Kraydel’s system comprises a box that sits on top of a TV set connected to an easy-to-use remote control that can enable video calls and deliver reminders about medication and care visits

The remote control unit has large buttons for those with limited dexterity or tremors.

Paul Moorhead, co-founder and chief research officer, had been working with Intel in 2016 when his mother was admitted to hospital after a fall.

Following her discharge, he realised the challenges involved with maintaining her independence.

His initial idea for the business was to find an IoT solution to give family members peace of mind about their senior relatives, which led to him entering the Invent 2016 competition run by Catalyst Northern Ireland to test it out.

“The more I described what we could do or what I believed was possible in terms of enabling resilience and providing timely intervention for elderly people, the more encouragement we got.”

Paul Moorhead (company CRO) whose family inspired the Kraydel
Paul Moorhead (company CRO) whose family inspired the Kraydel

He began thinking about how the system could use a TV set to deliver reminders and help people manage their medication.

Recent research has found that non-compliance to medication is a significant factor in hospital readmissions.

The TV box has a sensor bar, camera, and an infrared detector that can be paired with other existing devices such as mattress sensors to measure heart rate and respiration, smart plugs, as well as pulse-oxygen and blood pressure monitors.

Notifications can be pushed onto the TV screen to tell the user that someone is calling or to remind them to take medication.

“We can take control of the TV set — turn it on, change the input to display alerts or messages, and then take you back to your viewing,” said Mr Moorhead.

The team completed early trials of the device in South Africa, and Mr Moorhead credits previous CEO Lisa Smith, whose mother Margie Smith is at the forefront of elder care in that country, with providing early insights into product development.

Citing research into loneliness and isolation and how it’s connected with declines in health in older people — including slower recovery from surgery and illnesses — Mr Moorhead said the aim of Kraydel is to build resilience in older people by helping them to reconnect with the outside world, thereby improving health outcomes.

While competitors are using simple hardware such as wearable fobs and motion detectors, and others are trying to address social inclusion and mental wellbeing, Mr Moorhead said he’s not aware of another company that is trying to do both.

Addressing concerns about privacy issues around putting cameras in the homes of older people, he said the user can decide on the settings they are comfortable with.

If they feel vulnerable, they see the system “less as surveillance and more as security and comfort”.

The Kraydel system has potential to combat bed-blocking, a significant problem faced by healthcare systems around the world. Mr Moorhead said that light surveillance, such as monitoring of blood pressure, temperature, and medication can be done remotely.

Commenting on the current coronavirus crisis, Mr Moorhead said Kraydel can be useful with situations where, instead of an older person attending a GP surgery or hospital clinic, they can be monitored at home remotely.

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