What tech can make our homes healthy?

With the NHS looking towards incorporating digital technology into our homes to help us stay fit and healthy, Digital Health Age reporter Reece Armstrong looks at what technologies could be used to get us off of the couch and improve our wellbeing.

The NHS has announced plans to work with housing developers to embed smart technology into 65,000 new homes.

The Healthy New Towns project will cover 10 sites across the UK in an effort to get the country’s population fit again. The UK has the highest levels of obesity in western Europe with more than 60% of adults being overweight or obese.

With the rise in digital health products for both consumers and healthcare professionals, there are a number of solutions that could be used within the home to better our health.

 

Sleep monitoring

There is an entire digital market dedicated to helping us sleep better and for good reason – if bad enough sleep loss can increase the chances of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Sleep monitoring technology can do more than track how well a person is sleeping. Certain products are now designed to help make the bedroom a more comfortable place to fall asleep and to wake up in.

More so, as sleep tracking has moved away from wearables and into stand-alone products, sensors could be easily incorporated into mattresses or bedside units for example. Other solutions such as light bulbs knowing when to gradually fade and the heating changing to an optimal temperature could help people get off to the land of nod quickly.

 

Activity alerts

For a long time, wearables have prompted people into moving if they’ve been inactive for a long period.

The health issues related to being inactive and in particular sitting down for too long are wide and varied. It’s thought that sedentary behaviour is linked to certain forms of cancer, type 2 diabetes and lower metabolism.

It’s estimated that the majority of adults spend over seven hours sitting down and with sedentary behaviour costing the NHS over £1 billion every year, something needs to be done about it.

Activity alerts could be an easy solution to help us get off the couch and get more active. Alerts could be implemented into entertainment systems, prompting users to move after a certain amount of time spent either watching their favourite show or playing video-games. This solution could even be incorporated into the workplace, with systems reminding employees to move around every half an hour or so to offset the negative health effects of sitting down for too long.

 

Fall monitoring

For over 65s, falls are the most common and serious type of accident and for those over 75, they represent the leading cause of disability and death from injury. More so, the cost of falls to the NHS and social care system is estimated to be over £2 billion every year.

Fall detection systems are now a widespread technology that can help those with frailty and their families have relative peace of mind. Certain systems are now able to automatically detect whether a fall is serious and send an alert out to a response centre. This means that for those that do fall, healthcare professionals can respond faster and potentially prevent and injuries from getting worse. Systems could be embedded into housing for the elderly to give them a way to feel safe knowing help is on the way if they do fall.

 

Remote health monitoring

Digital health company Inhealthcare is working alongside the NHS on the Healthy New Towns project, offering patients taking warfarin tracking devices to allow them to carry out their own health checks.

It’s a perfect example of how health tech can be incorporated into the community to both have residents keep healthy and to reduce pressure on the NHS.

With the range of portable health technologies, populations with certain health troubles could have homes tailored to keep them healthy.

For instance, people living in communities with particularly bad air population could have updates sent to their phones telling them when the air is particularly bad and which routes they could take to lessen the impact on their health.

More so, areas with high rates of cardiovascular disease could have small and relatively cheap EKG monitors included within homes, giving residents an easy and quick way to check their heart health.

 

With more great examples of digital health being introduced every day, it’s difficult not to envision a future where this technology is a part of our everyday lives.



Reece Armstrong is a reporter for Digital Health Age. Coming from the North East of England, Reece has an MA in Media & Journalism and a BA in Popular & Contemporary Music from Newcastle University. Reach him on Twitter or email via: reece.armstrong@rapidnews.com


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