IoT & Connected Care: Combatting the Caregiver Shortage

Connected healthcare for better outcomes

All over the world, the healthcare industry is facing a sizable caregiver shortage, one that is only expected to worsen in the coming years. According to the Global Coalition on Ageing, across OECD countries, the number of elder care workers will need to increase by 60% by 2040 to maintain the current ratio of caregivers to patients – which means that roughly 13.5 million new care workers will be required in addition to those already working in the field.

The shortage of care workers means additional solutions will be required – and they’re already being implemented. Curosense is a Sweden-based connected care company whose customers are relatives to anyone who is getting older or is vulnerable in some way, who lives by themselves or in a couple where your partner or other loved ones are concerned about care.

“It’s important to understand the scope of the problem and why our solution is crucial to addressing challenges both today and, in the future,” says Pär Sydow, Co-founder and CEO, Curosense. “In Sweden alone, roughly 1 out of 5 people over the age of 18 years (1.3 million out of 10 million Swedes) have the primary responsibility for caring for parents who still live in their homes, something that puts a lot of pressure on everyone – because when I say 1.3 million, I mean they have taken on the responsibility of taking care of their elderly relatives, something that is really the responsibility of the municipalities – but the municipalities don’t have enough resources to take on everyone.”

The Solution

The Curosense solution is based on motion sensors and an innovative system with, among other things, ‘passive alarms.’ The idea is that whoever has Curosense sensors in their home will trigger a proactive alarm when their activity pattern changes over time or, whenever it deviates from individually set parameters.

The care recipient gets a bracelet with an alarm button and can select themselves who gets the alarm on the Curosense phone app – this could be a care worker, a relative, a friend – and you can have a broadcast of alarms that go to one or multiple persons.

The device is also suitable for caretaking facilities and can be used in all resident’s rooms. So, you have the alarm for the resident, but also an alarm for the caretaker where you put in alarm details where you can say something like ‘let me know if mother is awake and out of bed by 9am’. If she is you get a green light, if she isn’t you get a red light. Basically, you set the different types of alarms for throughout the day, so if dad is going out to dinner and is expected home at 9pm, you can set a one-time alarm that will ping you when he gets home, which can be crucial.

“It is both a proactive alarm and an active alarm, depending on what is needed at any given time. This is something needed by caretaking companies and home support provided by municipalities,” says Pär Sydow. “In many regions people live in remote areas and it’s a challenge to reach everyone physically and it’s a big burden on the care workers to go from home to home to check on people – but it’s an inefficient system. In the morning they need, for example, 50 people to check on the elderly, but only ten in the afternoon. With Curosense they can check the app and see who needs attention first because maybe 40 have a green light and ten have a red light – you can check the indicating red light first.”

Curosense is also introducing statistics to the app, so subscribers will get bi-weekly or monthly reports that tell them that, for example, they have the alarm set between 8 and 9am but their mother is always up before 8, so Curosense can suggest they narrow or change the window for a better view.

“You can’t ask for specific stats, but you can check yourself things like if your father has a visit to the bathroom every night,” says Pär Sydow. “He might look tired but tell you that he sleeps well – the app can tell you that he gets up to use the bathroom 6 times a night, which could not just tell you his nighttime habits but also alert you to a bigger problem – this information could also act as an indicator of other, perhaps bigger health challenges. This is where the potential to look at trends emerges. If Agneta is no longer getting up at 8am and instead has gotten up at 9 or 10 am for a few weeks, is this because she’s out late or is there an underlying problem?”

Why IoT and cellular connectivity?

There are reasons Curosense moved from an ethernet broadband supply to IoT and the cellular network. Historically, people think it’s more secure to have a wire in the wall but having used mobile networks and WiFi it’s clear to Curosense that it’s better to have a SIM in the devices.

“It’s very rare that a phone doesn’t work or doesn’t have coverage or if it doesn’t work there is something wrong with your phone, not the network,” says Pär Sydow.

quotes icon

Together with the fact that we are going for simplicity and our solution has to be easy, what we wanted to achieve was that you get your box with the device, plug it in to power it up, and you’re good to go. You don’t have to configure anything or figure out passwords – it’s plug and play.

The truth is that more people than you’d think are very adverse to technology and don’t want to hassle with WiFi. SIMs and cellular connectivity – it’s how we’re moving forward as a society. Just look around you and you will understand that IoT and SIMs are everywhere.

“Another reason we moved to IoT and cellular connectivity is that while we had an expectation that the cost of SIMs would be high, it turns out the price was much lower than expected, so it became a completely different commercial game for us. And thirdly, when looking at our product roadmap we’re going to go for bracelets and other types of sensors soon and if we were to rely on ethernet and ports, etc. we would not have a successful future – you can’t wear a bracelet that’s connected to ethernet. And it’s good to have a company like Tele2 IoT to partner with because of the global footprint, something that will be very important as we expand into other countries. Tele2 IoT also has a good entrepreneurial mindset and that is important to us as we move forward.”

The future

Curosense is currently working through three channels: the public sector and care giving companies, partners and resellers and, direct to consumers.. They had originally started off looking at a straightforward business plan, kicking off in Sweden and then moving into other markets as they learned from their experiences in Sweden.

 “We learned quickly that it’s a good idea to scale in Sweden and then move into other markets, such as the UK, where the requirements are similar to Sweden, with the difference that there has traditionally been a lack of support from the local councils for a long time,” says Pär Sydow. “And in the UK, it’s one out of two who have the responsibility for elderly or care recipients, unlike one out of five here in Sweden, so they have big challenges. We’re also looking to potentially expand in other countries in Europe.”

While competition might be greater in other markets, there are surprisingly few who deliver this kind of solution to the consumer market. Those other solutions can be significantly higher in cost and many of competitors offer technology products that Pär Sydow says are not fit for purpose. Curosense is a solution that is easy to use and doesn’t require any tech knowledge.

quotes icon

Our solution is financially viable, meaning the cost is not prohibitive for most. It is a clean solution, so we’re not canabalizing anything and our products are very scalable.

Curosense has several new products on the horizon. One is a bracelet that will have only two buttons, one with an alarm and the other giving you the ability to speak to your preassigned person.

“We are also adding a camera in order to enhance things. If mom falls and you can’t reach her, a camera will help you get an immediate picture of what is happening in her home, and it can also help identify trends. We see ourselves as becoming the go-to point for home health solutions because we are quite unique in our solution – it’s a solution that is robust, proactive, and carried by the mobile network, and it is adapted to address elderly care.”

Get in touch