With the Avert-IT project we’re doing our best to turn the typical product development process on it’s head, for medical devices at least.
Our clinicians are deciding on innovations they can use, and the EU under Framework Programme 7 is helping de-risk all the development.
This should be a model for anybody interested in bringing new thinking to the medical device industry.
And here’s proof it works. HealthTech Wire describes the success of Caalyx, a project funded under the previous Framework Programme.
“In our ageing societies, it is essential that we provide solutions to increase the time that people can stay in their familiar surroundings before having to go to a care facility,” says Manuel Escriche of Telefónica Investigación y Desarrollo in Spain. Escriche is the coordinator of Caalyx, a € 3 million ambient assisted living project that received funding of € 1.85m under the umbrella of the 6th Research Framework Programme of the EU. Caalyx (“Complete Ambient Assisted Living Experiment”) involved partners from Germany, Italy, Ireland, the UK and Portugal.
“The prototype we developed consists of a home monitoring system, a mobile roaming monitoring system and a caretaker center. The mobile system is able to collect five different vital signs as well as detecting falls and transmits the data to a caretaker center that can be accessed by doctors, caretakers or family members according to the individual circumstances” explains Escriche. Via GPS, the location of the elderly person can be tracked so that in the case of a medical emergency, help can be directed to wherever the person is.
Several features of the Caalyx AAL solution are unusual for this kind of project. First, every effort has been made to ensure privacy, despite continuous monitoring. “The information from the GPS tracking system, for example, cannot be accessed by anyone under normal everyday circumstances. The data are only released if there is a medical emergency, allowing the person to be detected quickly,” explains Escriche. Furthermore, all patient information is carefully encrypted.
A second interesting feature of the Caalyx prototype is its high usability. “Solutions like this have to be as self-explanatory as possible. And we also have to take into account that many elderly people are not as capable with their fingers as young people. This makes it difficult to use devices with small buttons, for example.” To overcome this, Caalyx uses the television as a communication interface for video-conferences with relatives, nurses and doctors, and an adapted version of Nintendo’s Wii controller to operate the home system. This integration was developed by the UK-based company Synkronix.
A third differentiating feature is its adaptability to particular health features. “Doctors from Hospital Sant Antoni Abat in Spain did a wide study on Spanish elder population to identify what are the appropriate vital signs to be measured and to know the right thresholds for health alerts”, points out Escriche. The Caalyx system allows doctors to customize these health thresholds, what are applied in the smart mobile phone, which was developed in Portugal by INESC Porto.
Finally, in addition to monitoring the usual vital signs such as blood pressure and ECG with devices from Germany-based telemedicine supplier Corscience, Caalyx also monitors falls and mobility using a new technology developed by the University of Limerick in Ireland. This ensures that medical assistance can be provided quickly in the case of a fall.