How to do IoT for care
< Project overview >
While there is much interest in the application of IoT technologies in health and care contexts, they have yet to enter the mainstream of care practice. Much of the effort (including in other Pitch-In mini-projects) has focused on awareness-raising activities and early-stage exploration and ideation, with proven methodologies and approaches yet to emerge.
Much of this is down to the complexity of the care context, and the difficulties of demonstrating (cost-)effectiveness, and, subsequently, of return-on-investment.
In this project we analysed the particular barriers to success in this field, and propose a research and development roadmap to navigate these barriers. The work included inputs from the other HEI partners, both in terms of direct contributions and in the form of experience reports from those working on other health and wellbeing mini-projects.
The principal aims of the project were to:
Perform an ‘experience audit’ of the existing health and wellbeing mini-projects.
Perform a rapid scanning review of the literature to identify trends and barriers.
Develop a programme of work to address barriers and steer effort towards activities and applications considered to be more rewarding.
Develop a toolkit of resources to help IoT for care application development.
The major Pitch-In barrier addressed by the work was to be dispositional in general, that is exploring the obstacles to collaboration, development and engagement, in the sense that the project would itself attempt to identify and articulate in greater detail the precise nature of barriers in this field.
The principal beneficiaries are intended to be anyone actively working on, or considering the development of, applications of IoT for care.
What was done?
The main activities can be summarised as follows:
Conducted a rapid scanning review of the academic and grey literatures for the purposes of recognising current trends and acknowledged barriers; and proposed an ‘ontology’ of applications and barriers based on this review.
Conducted an academic survey of academics and researchers working on Pitch-In health and wellbeing mini-projects, an enterprise survey of people working in and with commercial organisations in the field, and an engagement exercise and small-scale survey of opinions of the general public to the use of IoT in care.
Hosted an online conference on our preliminary findings from the surveys, and engaged in collaborative horizon scanning and threat identification with attendees.
Wrote up results of above activities into three separate reports.
The project achievements can be summarised as follows. The project has:
Identified current trends and concerns from the literature, and from academic and enterprise experiences.
Identified a number of different applications that promise the most significant return on investment, both from a financial perspective and in terms of furthering the understanding and acceptance of IoT in care contexts.
Made a number of recommendations about how best to foster development and improve the quality of applications of IoT in care contexts.
Taken a snapshot of the constitution of the current UK IoT for care development ecosystem, in terms of the nature of its members, their core competences and obstacles to their growth and development.
The following reports, summarising the findings of the project, are available below.
The most significant impact that this project has had to date surrounds public and sector stakeholder engagement.
The academic and enterprise surveys both attained very reasonable numbers of responses (13 and 16 respectively), the public engagement exercise (run in collaboration with the VOICE network) attracted around 20 attendees, and the conference was well attended (with around 40 participants, all of whom contributed through breakout sessions). The forthcoming publication of the reports and presentation of the results at the Pitch-In theme dissemination event will serve to increase impact.
In the short term, the findings from this project, along with outcomes from another health-related mini-project (Breaking barriers to the use of IoT for mental healthcare), led to the conception and successful award of another Pitch-In mini-project (IoT and mental health: training sessions and hacking the system), which delivered, for a general audience, a series of webinars addressing different aspects of the digital health innovation development pipeline.
We had intended to submit research-focussed proposals based around the recommendations that emerged from the consultation exercises, but in practice we found that the recommendations frequently concerned high-level policy changes, and greater investment and flexibility in the (UK) funding landscape, and as such were considered beyond the scope of what the project team could reasonably be expected to propose and anchor.
We maintain that the UK ecosystem would benefit greatly from the formation of something akin to a national centre for digital health, to act as a focal point for knowledge exchange and collaboration between health and care services, medtech developers, academia, patients and public, and other stakeholders.
Much of the activity took place under lockdown conditions, but the transition to online working was relatively smooth. The success of the online surveys and, in particular, the online conference helped to reassure that scoping and consultation exercises of this sort could be successfully conducted with all working from home.
The Oxford partner (a contact established through an earlier Pitch-In collaboration) made a significant contribution, as did the Pitch-In-affiliated entrepreneur-in-residence, who contributed her knowledge and experience, as well as her extensive contacts in the commercial sector and experience of running events.
The project was over-ambitious, specifically around the idea of producing a toolkit for doing IoT for care; the human resources were not available and, besides, it seems that the state-of-the-art in terms of available methodologies and experience is not yet mature enough for the envisaged compendium of techniques.
We did not manage to collaborate with HEI partners Newcastle and Cambridge, as was originally intended (the money allocated for this purpose was returned to Pitch-In coffers).
What has Pitch-In done for you?
Access to Pitch-In resources (financing, but also collaborators and contacts) have allowed us to form a more rounded picture of the current IoT for care innovation landscape than would a traditional research project in this area.
Professor Luc De Witte – the University of Sheffield