Feb 09, 2023

Funding awarded to AI project that predicts and prevents falls in aged care

Funding awarded to AI project that predicts and prevents falls in aged care

A multimillion-dollar Government grant could shape the future of falls prevention as research begins to see whether artificial intelligence (AI) smart devices can predict and prevent falls at one aged care organisation.

Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) has partnered with HomeGuardian and Deakin University in an industry-leading research project that will see HomeGuardian’s smart devices placed in VMCH homes for the next two years.

During this time, data recognising the patterns of resident movement, fall predictors and prevention outcomes will be collected to strengthen the foundations of the AI devices.

$2.65 million has been awarded to the project through the Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P), which will be allocated to HomeGuardian to develop and manufacture the devices, conduct research and test across aged care homes.

VMCH Chief Information Officer, Maria Paz, said the predictive technology would boost their ability to identify and enhance preventative falls measures.

“We are absolutely thrilled to play a key role in such an important initiative,” said Ms Paz.

“This technology has the potential to not only help reduce hospital admissions and injuries, but also save lives. 

Even when falls don’t cause injury, they can trigger a loss of confidence and an ongoing fear of falling. This technology would help boost independence that is so important to maintain as people age, plus provide peace of mind for families and carers.” 

Ms Paz said the grant supports VMCH’s continued adoption and development of innovative technologies.

HomeGuardian is reportedly the first of its kind to use predictive indicators to reduce the incidence of falls, relying on sensors that map out a room and how an individual moves and interacts within that space.

There is no camera, just sensors, and once the device has collected enough data it can alert aged care staff or family members if abnormal behaviour is occurring – such as a lack of movement for a longer than usual period of time or back-and-forth swaying movements.

HomeGuardian Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Kane Sajdak, said there would be time-saving benefits for aged care staff, and healthcare benefits for both older people and the healthcare system.

“Time-saving is definitely a big factor, particularly when we have a nurse shortage that’s going to get worse in the next 15 years and the ageing population is growing, adding to the demand for care,” said Mr Sajdak.

“But it’s not just about saving time. Knowing where people are who are potentially at a high risk of having a fall and responding to it straight away allows you to dedicate the care when and where it’s needed, rather than just doing rounds for the sake of doing rounds.

“It allows you to provide more intuitive care rather than just simply being reactive.”

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) Falls in older Australians 2019-20 report, 133,000 hospitalisations and 5,000 deaths resulted from falls in people aged 65 and over.

Falls are also the leading cause of hospitalised injuries and injury deaths for older Australians, and Mr Sajdak is proud to be tackling such a serious matter alongside VMCH with the support of the Government.

“The rate of hospital admissions and the rate of injury, possibly mortality, is entirely linked to the length of time people spend on the ground after a fall – so by getting to them as soon as possible we reduce the burden on the health care system,” said Mr Sajdak.

“It’s extremely positive to know that what we are doing, and the direction that we’re taking our technology resonates with the aged care industry and the Government.

“We can actually reduce mortality rates, the impact on people’s lives and keep them independent for longer at the same time. We’re solving real-world problems.”

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