Oslo, pioneer of health technologies
The number of people over the age of 65 will continue to grow over the coming decades, impacting long-term care around the world. However, Oslo seems to have found the solution to the challenges that local governments are facing with their aging population.
Introducing technology into the healthcare system is one of the main priorities for the Norwegian capital to provide a quality system for all. Digital devices have been proven to make people feel safe, empowered, and physically and socially active.
“In 2030, people aged 80 and over would double in my neighborhood,” says Bente Nodland Otto, director of health at Ullern, one of the districts of Oslo. “You can give me all the money you want, but I can’t get enough nurses. We have to find a way for technology to drive things forward,” she adds.
This is the beginning of wellness technology.
The reverse side of technology
Modern devices, artificial intelligence and big data can all work together to make nursing homes safer and therefore a longer place to stay.
The reason older people end up moving to nursing homes is because they don’t feel safe in their homes, Otto admits. “They are afraid of falling. Some people have heart disease and are afraid of having a heart attack or falling asleep because no one could see if anything would happen to them,” she adds.
To solve the problem, in 2017 some neighborhoods in Oslo – including Ullern – commissioned a company to design a digital surveillance device. The “RoomMate” infrared system detects movements such as falls, helping seniors feel safer in their homes while saving the city money.
Keep an eye on patients
Another innovative addition is the ‘Remote Patient Monitoring’, an app-based remote control that checks an elderly person’s room. Studies show that this system can increase users’ sense of safety, educate them about their chronic illness, and empower them to take action when symptoms appear.
In addition, ‘Remote Patient Monitoring’ empowers users’ relatives and reassures them, postpones the need for home care services and reduces the number of hospitalizations. In addition, patients can live longer at home and enjoy a better quality of life.
In recent years, the monitoring system has become essential for the elderly at home. Meanwhile, the city of Oslo has given everyone aged 75 and over a third device to feel safe outdoors. The system is a watch, necklace or shoe sole equipped with a GPS tracker that people can use when walking outdoors.
Automatic medicine dispensers have been introduced.
A pioneering retirement home
Oslo is also preparing to welcome more people to nursing homes. The Lindeberghjemmet retirement home pilots technological devices and monitoring systems for its patients.
“We are the nursing home with the most integrated healthcare technology,” proudly states Jonas Nermoen, ICT and digitization consultant. Healthcare technology increases resident safety and peace of mind for loved ones, making it more efficient and easier for caregivers, he adds.
A few examples are the “RoomMate” sensor mentioned above, the patient aid, which makes it possible to call the right employee at any time, or a device for checking incontinence. ‘RoomMate’ “means we can have early warnings at night, for example,” adds Nermoen.
He explains that in cases of mild cognitive impairment, people may wake up in the middle of the night and forget to use their stroller if they are confused. Thanks to the technology, the employees of the Lindeberghjemmet nursing home receive an alert, check the person’s room and can provide immediate assistance.
“Traditionally, we do the rounds three times a night. Now we are faster and go where needed instead of checking in case there is something to do,” says Nermoen. He adds that during quiet periods, the retirement home can easily monitor 50 people simultaneously.
All these innovative elements have changed the dynamics of the Lindeberghjemmet nursing home. “We had to restructure ourselves. Changing the way of working is almost the hardest part. But it’s for our residents, their safety and our peace of mind,” says Nermoen.
Are humans no longer needed?
“We have to draw the line between what can be done by artificial intelligence, robots and electronic devices and what human beings need,” says Otto.
Indeed, Nermoen explains that humans are still needed as nursing home workers, especially during peak hours when many patients need help simultaneously. But technology makes human labor more efficient.
“We see a huge advance in doing things differently for our older people, at least in Norway. I’m glad this technology is emerging now, so aging and needing nursing care can be managed easily if we work now,” he says.
Privacy and data protection are an additional concern with technology: nursing home caregivers ask residents for consent to use innovative devices. When dealing with patients with dementia who could not make an informed decision, health care providers made decisions on their behalf.
Due to the General Data Protection Regulation, the ‘RoomMate’ system does not identify the person using it, except by infrared colors. “We are careful to respect Norwegian law and patient rights,” adds Nermoen.
Je beginning of wellness technology
Oslo City Council focuses on four areas: procurement and arenas for innovation, delivery and service models, response services, and data exchange through an information hub .
The goal is to integrate the technology as part of the city’s health services. The same technology and a full service model should be offered regardless of the area of the city, which will contribute to innovation and business development in the city.
In addition to other interesting technological devices, the initiatives of the district of Ullern are also based on a human approach. For example, pairing moms with their newborns on walks with seniors, an interaction that has proven to make participants happy and healthy.
The Norwegian capital sees in technology an opportunity to improve care for the elderly. The government’s retirement home body in Oslo floated the idea of stipulating contracts with tech companies, with a budget of 7-9 million euros. “We want to increase the use of this technology, and we know that’s the way to go,” says Nermoen.
Oslo proves that technology can have a social impact, especially by helping vulnerable people.