ESRC Impact Acceleration Account Award

Photo:  Workshop at The Open University's campus in October 2016.  The participants (people aged over 55 years) came in to discuss their experiences of using the activity monitoring trackers  (Sir Halley Stewart Trust-funded project)

Photo: Workshop at The Open University's campus in October 2016.  The participants (people aged over 55 years) came in to discuss their experiences of using the activity monitoring trackers (Sir Halley Stewart Trust-funded project)

We have received funding from an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) in a partnership between The Open University (OU) and University of Oxford for our project: Designing Wearable Activity Monitoring Technologies that work well for Older Users and Carers (Project reference: 1702-KEA-282). The project will run from April 2017 to January 2018.

Wearable activity monitoring technologies include, for example, trackers from Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung, and smart watches. Typically, these devices record steps walked, sleep patterns, calories expended, or heart rate and their functionality is increasing. Given the UK’s ageing profile and as part of the agendas of Active and Healthy Ageing and digital NHS, there is an increasing focus on maintaining health in later life and encouraging physical activity to preserve mobility and motor skills, and self-monitoring of health and medical conditions. 

The ESRC IAA project aims to produce a multi-way knowledge-exchange between key stakeholders for improving the design of activity monitoring technologies (and digital health wearables, in general) for older users, carers and medical professionals. The stakeholders will comprise of: academia; industry (manufacturers of digital health wearables); statutory and voluntary groups such as Bucks Vision, Dementia Friends; older people and carers through Age UK MK and Carers MK; and OU’s partnerships with medical networks.

Our focus will be to build on and exploit recently gathered user-based evidence (from our previous Sir Halley Stewart Trust-funded project) on the functionality, usability and accessibility of  wearable technologies, the accuracy and reliability concerns of stakeholders, and ethical considerations of data-usage. We gathered this evidence through user engagement on the role of wearable activity monitoring technologies in the health and well-being of people aged 55 years and over in the Sir Halley Stewart Trust-funded project - trialling devices with a group of older users and conducting surveys and workshops with multiple stakeholders: carers, people aged over 55 years, and medical and healthcare professionals.

Our practitioner partners on this ESRC IAA project are: Age UK Milton Keynes, Carers Milton Keynes and Samsung, UK.

The academic team consists of: Dr Duncan Banks, Dr Caroline Holland, Ms Catherine McNulty, Professor Shailey Minocha and Dr Ana-Despina Tudor of The Open University; and Dr Kate Hamblin and Dr George Leeson of The Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, University of Oxford. The project will be managed by Ms Louise Thomas of The Open University.

Use of data from fitness trackers in medical consultations

Are you a doctor or healthcare provider? Do you come across data from fitness trackers such as from Fitbit etc. in your consultations?

Activity data on the dashboard in the iPad App of the wearable (pictures courtesy: Dr Duncan Banks, The Open University, UK)

About the project

Our research project at UK’s Open University and in collaboration with Age UK Milton Keynes aims to investigate whether behaviour changes in people aged over 55 years through the use of wearable activity-tracking technologies. Example technologies include those from Fitbit, Jawbone, or smart watches from Apple or Samsung.

We have launched a survey that is aimed at medical professionals to explore whether they use the data from these devices for diagnosis and intervention. Most importantly, do medical professionals use data from these devices to determine the behaviour or lifestyle changes in people aged over 55 years?  

Call for participation in the survey

As a medical professional we would like to know about your perceptions of using digital health wearables in medical consultations, diagnosis and treatment. Our focus is on wearable fitness devices which track daily fitness levels (e.g. wrist-bands from Fitbit or Jawbone, or smart watches from Apple or Samsung). 

As a part of the Sir Halley Stewart Trust-funded Digital health wearables project at The Open University, UK and in collaboration with Age UK Milton Keynes, we are running a survey: please visit or to participate in this survey. It will take 3-5 minutes to complete it.

The project's research design has been approved by University's Human Research Ethics Committee. If you have any queries about the project or this survey, please contact Professor Shailey Minocha, The Open University: