A report from UK think-tank 2020health suggests that data from smart energy meter systems in homes could be used to identify whether people are suffering from conditions, including dementia and depression in a novel implementation of telehealth monitoring.
"Our ageing society indicates a future of much greater healthcare need. Smart meter technology could prove useful in making it easier and safer for people with conditions, such as dementia, to live independently in their homes for longer, delaying transition to the care home setting and providing peace of mind to family and loved ones," says Julia Manning, director of 2020health and member of the Royal Society of Medicine's Digital Health Council, of the research. "Harnessing this technology could bring benefits to all: Patients, caregivers, family members and healthcare providers across the UK."
"Dementia is a condition which is very close to my heart as many of my former teammates have suffered with it," adds footballer Sir Geoff Hurst, best known for his hat-trick which took England to victory in the 1966 World Cup Final. "Back in the 1960s, no one really spoke about dementia or other degenerative diseases, and there was little awareness. There has obviously been a lot of news recently about dementia in football and I welcome new technological developments which can help sufferers, as well as their families and carers. It is very welcome news that something as small as a smart meter could potentially help our healthcare services in the future."
The report is based on research covering 4,000 UK adults, which saw 81 percent of respondents stating they would be more comfortable with elderly or vulnerable family members living independently in their own home if there was a way of being alerted to anomalous behavior - something which can be inferred from energy usage patterns.
"It’s so hard to detect the signs when you don’t live with your relatives," notes Arlene Phillips CBE, who has experienced the exact issue the research proposes to solve. "I found out that my father would often leave the hob on overnight — not only was this a symptom of Alzheimer’s developing, it was also dangerous. Had this technology been around when I was looking after my father, it would have greatly helped me understand what was happening with him."
The report is available now from pro-smart-meter lobby group Smart Energy GB.