Sir Halley Stewart Trust

Investigating the role of wearable activity-tracking technologies in the well-being and quality of life of people aged 55 and over

Photos from our workshops taken by Dr. Duncan Banks, The Open University, UK

Sir Halley Stewart Trust-funded project

In this Sir Halley Stewart Trust-funded project on digital health wearables for people aged over 55 years (May 2016 - July 2017) and in collaboration with Age UK Milton Keynes (MK) and Carers MK, our aim was to investigate whether and how wearable activity-tracking technologies can acceptably contribute towards self-monitoring of activity and health by people aged over 55.

Example technologies include trackers from Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung, and smart watches. Typically, these devices record steps walked, sleep patterns, calories expended and heart rate.

Through our empirical investigations, we have identified:

  • challenges for adoption of these technologies;
  • the need to design for age-related impairments (e.g. vision, hearing, memory, dexterity);
  • concerns related to data management, security and data privacy;
  • positive behavioural changes of using activity monitoring devices, and, in general;
  • the role of digital health wearables in caring, self-management of health, post-operative monitoring of mobility, and for monitoring movement and locations in conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Report

A preliminary and brief report of the project is now available: pdf report

Citing this report: Minocha, Shailey; Banks, Duncan; Holland, Caroline; McNulty, Catherine and Tudor, Ana-Despina (2017). Investigating the role of wearable activity-tracking technologies in the well-being and quality of life of people aged 55 and over. Report submitted to Sir Halley Stewart Trust, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.

The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Trust who funded this project.

Project Team

Dr Duncan Banks,  Dr Caroline Holland, Ms Catherine McNulty, Professor Shailey Minocha and Dr Ana-Despina Tudor, The Open University

Mrs Jane Palmer, Age UK Milton Keynes

Mrs Sue Bowering and Mr Robert Benn, Carers Milton Keynes 

ESRC Impact Acceleration Award

Ageing population, retaining independence of older people, support to carers, and using internet-enabled technologies to transform healthcare services are some of the national concerns. We are now involved in a multi-way knowledge-exchange (KE) programme (April 2017 - January 2018) through an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account Award to set up dialogues with/between key stakeholders including manufacturers for improving the design of digital health wearables for older users, carers and medical professionals.

Could an app replace a trip to the doctor?

Babylon and Machine learning

There have been news reports this week on an app replacing a trip to the doctors: an app with a robot doctor that can triage, diagnose and even treat individuals over their phones. Some of these are:

Babylon puts a doctor in a machine, BBC Technology  

Babylon raises £50m to perfect its AI Doctor, CITY A.M.

Babylon raises $60m to build AI doctor to diagnose illnesses, Financial Times, FT.com

Our response

Our response to these news items and based on our ongoing research on the use of digital health wearables for self-monitoring and self-management of health is available here:

Could an app replace a trip to the doctor?

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.

Digital health wearables for the person being cared for: a survey

Sleep patterns shown on the dashboard of the digital health wearable (photo courtesy: Dr. Duncan Banks)

We would like to know about your perceptions of using digital health wearables for monitoring the health and activity of the people you care for. It is not necessary for you to have used such devices for the people you are caring for to participate in this survey. Your inputs will help us to understand how similar health wearables could be effectively used if they became a part of healthcare: caring, monitoring and self-management of health.

Our current focus is on activity trackers (e.g. wrist-bands from Fitbit or Jawbone, or smart watches from Apple or Samsung), which track daily fitness levels such as heart rate, sleep patterns, or calories expended.

As a part of the Sir Halley Stewart Trust-funded Digital health wearables project (http://www.shaileyminocha.info/digital-health-wearables/) at The Open University, UK, we are running a survey: please visit https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/health-wearables-for-the-person-being-cared-for or http://bit.ly/2iN4YSd to participate in this survey.

The survey will take 6-8 minutes to complete it.

Since these devices are not yet designed to accurately analyse data from wheel-chair usage, if you could fill up this survey only if you are caring for somebody who is mobile and not wheel-chair bound.

The university’s Human Research Ethics Committee has approved the project’s research design. If you have any queries about the project or this survey, please contact Professor Shailey Minocha: shailey.minocha@open.ac.uk

Use of digital health wearables by people aged over 55 years: A survey

Picture courtesy: Dr Duncan Banks, The Open University, UK

As a part of our Sir Halley Stewart Trust funded Digital Health Wearables project and in collaboration with Age UK Milton Keynes, we (The Open University team) have launched a survey aimed at people aged 55 years and over to elicit their experiences of using activity monitoring devices such as FitBits or using the health and activity monitoring features on smart watches (e.g. from Apple, Samsung).

The survey enquires about the device they use the most (in case they have more than such a device): challenges in using the device; advantages towards well-being and quality of life; privacy and ethical aspects about data-sharing; usage of the data for self-monitoring/self-management, or for alerting medical professionals or their family. 

The survey is available at:  https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/health-wearables-over-55years-age-choices-effects or http://bit.ly/2bwfpEW (shortened version of the link). It will take 6-8 minutes to complete the survey.

The project's research design has been approved by University's Human Research Ethics Committee (reference HREC/2015/2191/Minocha/1).

If you have any queries about the survey, please contact Shailey Minocha of The Open University, UK: shailey.minocha@open.ac.uk

Many thanks.