"Our goal is to empower people with dementia and their caregivers by creating dementia-friendly ‘Healthy Homes’ – intelligent environments that transform and personalise care." Prof David Sharp
UK DRI Associate Director
1. At a glance
With an ageing population, limited resources for home care and no immediate cures available, developing new ways to help people live well with dementia is a priority. All too often people living with dementia are isolated and develop preventable problems that lead to unnecessary hospital admissions.
The UK DRI Care Research & Technology centre, based at Imperial with close collaboration with Surrey, brings together a diverse team of doctors, engineers and scientists who together can harness recent advances in artificial intelligence, engineering, robotics and sleep science to create new technologies that will deliver the highest quality dementia care in the home. Researchers are investigating new ways to keep people independent in their homes, improve their general health and sleep, and reduce confusion and agitation. Their work is guided by people with dementia and their caregivers, focusing on issues that cause the most problems.
The team will develop a range of devices that allow them to track a person’s behaviour and health at home. They will harness the power of artificial intelligence to understand an individual’s behaviour and predict when problems might arise – and also develop ways to quickly identify medical complications that may arise in the home. The researchers will work out ways to prompt people to resolve problems and also develop smart solutions that allow continuous interaction between people living with dementia, caregivers and medical professionals.
2. Scientific goals
Dementia leads to cognitive impairment that progressively worsens activities of daily living, takes away independence and impairs quality of life. The impact on individuals living with neurogenerative disease, as well as on the NHS, is enormous. For example, more than 25% of all NHS hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia and 20% of these admissions are due to preventable causes such as falls, episodes of agitation or an infection. The best way to improve this situation is to deal with problems before hospital admission is necessary. This centre will focus on developing practical, effective new technologies for use in the home that support an individual’s autonomy and personalises their care.
Launched in spring 2019, this interdisciplinary and innovative centre catalyses the development of necessary technology and data science. Researchers will optimise these technologies in a model home environment, deploy them in real-world evaluation studies and then, having established an evidence base, deliver them to people living with dementia and their carers.
The centre will:
- Create low cost and practical continuous monitoring technologies that derive key dementia-related measures such as EEG, sleep disturbance and infection diagnosis in the home;
- Develop reliable, safe and secure artificial intelligence (AI) systems that improve health autonomy by predicting clinical events, supporting activities of daily living and facilitating communication between people living with dementia, carers and health professionals;
- Integrate robotic devices that monitor and manage the environment for improved safety and patient quality of life;
- Move the point-of-care into the home and allow clinical teams to provide personalised, predictive and preventative healthcare.
The team will apply engineering principles throughout the work, which will be underpinned by a collective commitment to producing safe, usable and cost-effective technologies that foster new discovery science. People living with dementia and families will be central to this process, which will also explore the ethical implications of the work.
Their focus is holistic and personal, and will produce:
- Sensitive ways of tracking early stage disease progression through monitoring functional changes;
- Improved general health through the early identification and treatment of problems, such as infections;
- Methods to assess changes in behaviour and sleep in the home;
- Care pathways that allow rapid intervention in the home to improve health and safety.
If adopted widely, this new technology promises to transform major aspects of the health system by shifting the focus from the clinic or hospital into the home. This will reduce costs, whilst also improving the ability to respond rapidly. In doing so, this will provide insights into how dementia develops that will inform the measurement of disease progression, as well as improving the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers.
Within UK DRI
- The centre is situated at Imperial College London’s Biomedical Engineering Research Hub, co-located with the existing UK DRI centre.
- The technology and data analytics programmes will add value to the assessment of early disease (Nick Fox, UK DRI at UCL) and ageing cohorts (Joanna Wardlaw, UK DRI at Edinburgh).
- Using similar new data analytics approaches as Valentina Escott-Price, UK DRI at Cardiff.
Beyond UK DRI
- Imperial College London Helix Centre – cross-cutting involvement to support a patient-centred design process and health economic modelling.
Technologies, Healthy homes, AI, interdisciplinary, patient-centred design, sleep, monitoring
Artificial intelligence, engineering, sensors