A major NHS trial is about to commence to test how smart meters can monitor the health of people with life-limiting conditions, such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease or depression, in their own homes.
The devices will capture detailed habits and routines through the user’s interactions with electrical appliances, such as a kettle or oven.
They will flag up any sudden change in behaviour which could indicate an illness, a fall or a decline in their mental state.
The meters will be able to send alerts to family members or carers, who will then attend the address of the patient to check on their welfare.
The NHS trial will start in October following initial research by computer science experts at Liverpool John Moores University, who have been looking at how information on energy use gleaned from smart meters can be interpreted by AI algorithms and intelligent machines to check on house-bound patients.
Led by Dr Carl Chalmers and Dr Paul Fergus, a six month observation trial was launched in 2017 to see whether their technology could learn and adapt, potentially enabling accurate detection of when a certain household appliance is being turned off or left on for too long.
Now, a more extensive trial is being launched by the University and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.
The first phase of the trial will test the systems’ feasibility for use with 50 dementia patients living alone.
Organisers behind Smart Energy GB, the national campaign for the smart meter rollout, welcomed the news.
Robert Cheesewright, Corporate Affairs director, said: “Dementia impacts all of our lives. So its great news the NHS can use smart meters to improve care for people living with dementia, allowing more people to live independently in their own homes for longer. If we all get smart meters the NHS will have a low-cost tool at its fingertips to help improve the lives of those with dementia.”
In a statement, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said being able to monitor a patient at home with their consent “shows how innovative technologies enabled by smart meters can improve many aspects of our lives, not just our energy use”.
“This kind of technology has the potential to change someone’s quality of life, and their families’ lives, for the better by helping patients with long-term conditions stay at home and remain independent for longer,” BEIS said.