An aging population, accompanied by the prevalence of age-related diseases, presents a significant burden to health systems. This is exacerbated by an increasing shortage of aged care staff due to the existing workforce entering their retirement and fewer young people being attracted to work in aged care. In line with consumer preferences and potential cost-efficiencies, government and aged care providers are increasingly seeking options to move care and support to the community or home as opposed to residential care facilities. However, compared to residential care, home environments may provide limited opportunity for monitoring patients’ progression/decline in functioning and therefore limited opportunity to provide timely intervention. To address this, the Smarter Safer Homes (SSH) platform was designed to enable self-monitoring and/or management, and to provide aged care providers with support to deliver their services. The platform uses open Internet of Things communication protocols to easily incorporate commercially available sensors into the system.
Our research aims to detail the benefits of utilizing the SSH platform as a service in its own right as well as a complementary service to more traditional/historical service offerings in aged care. This work is anticipated to validate the capacity and benefits of the SSH platform to enable older people to self-manage and aged care service providers to support their clients to live functionally and independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
This study was designed as a single-blinded, stratified, 12-month randomized controlled trial with participants recruited from three aged care providers in Queensland, Australia. The study aimed to recruit 200 people, including 145 people from metropolitan areas and 55 from regional areas. Participants were randomized to the intervention group (having the SSH platform installed in their homes to assist age care service providers in monitoring and providing timely support) and the control group (receiving their usual aged care services from providers). Data on community care, health and social-related quality of life, health service utilization, caregiver burden, and user experience of both groups were collected at the start, middle (6 months), and end of the trial (12 months).
The trial recruited its first participant in April 2019 and data collection of the last participant was completed in November 2020. The trial eventually recruited 195 participants, with 98 participants allocated to the intervention group and 97 participants allocated to the control group. The study also received participants’ health service data from government data resources in June 2021.
A crisis is looming to support the aging population. Digital solutions such as the SSH platform have the potential to address this crisis and support aged care in the home and community. The outcomes of this study could improve and support the delivery of aged care services and provide better quality of life to older Australians in various geographical locations.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12618000829213; https://tinyurl.com/2n6a75em