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THE BIG INTERVIEW: Anthropos CEO Jim Patience

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When the pandemic hit, all progress at digital start-up Anthropos stalled, but with an end to COVID restrictions now in sight, the business is on track to roll out its solutions and has set out a roadmap to meet a growing demand for innovative connected care technology, as CEO Jim Patience explains.

To view a recorded version of this interview, click here.

Just over a year ago, technology start-up Anthropos was on the cusp of rolling out its solutions to Home Instead’s 225 UK offices and launching a new product with leading personal alarm provider Taking Care, part of AXA Health. But then COVID-19 hit and all progress stalled.

“On the 9th of March I came home from holiday and two weeks later we were in lockdown,” says CEO Jim Patience.

“We were working with Home Instead to plan the rollout of our technology, which Home Instead has branded as Home Aware, and they said ‘Jim, we don’t have the capacity to move forward with this at the moment – we have to focus on protecting our clients and staff’. We completely understood, as they had to stablise their business in the middle of a pandemic.

“It was a similar situation we Taking Care,” Patience adds. “We were developing a new product with them, but they are running emergency response centres and had to quickly shift their operations to work from home. So they had to delay the launch.

“So we lost most of 2020, in terms of acquiring new clients and new installations, and it slowed down our progress.”

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Anthropos is a care platform that enables the remote monitoring of older people.

Fast forward 12 months and Anthropos is now ready to deliver its solutions not only to its current clients, but to a potential new wave of customers, thanks to a heightened demand for connected care technology, triggered by the pandemic.

“It’s quite an exciting journey that we’re on,” says Patience. “If I can use the word positive in relation to COVID, the positive impact it has had for us is that it has increased the market for our technology and increased the awareness among the general public and care providers on what technology can do to improve outcomes.

“I hear care providers say that they need to use technology more and it needs to be part of parcel of the way they do business. I think that mind-set change has started and I don’t think we’ll go back. Care providers and family members see the value in technology. I see it myself when I check my app every day to see how my mamma is doing. I get reassurance that she’s doing okay.”

The pandemic has increased the awareness among the general public and care providers on what technology can do to improve outcomes.”

The Story of Anthropos

Anthropos is a connected care platform that enables the remote monitoring of older people, providing reassurance about their health and well-being.

Launched in 2016, the company is technically a start-up, but the experience of its founders in the technology and healthcare sectors goes back decades.

It is the brainchild of David Mobbs, the former chairman of Nuffield Health, and two other businesses – software provider Pumpco and IT management consultancy Differentis, previously headed up by Jim Patience.

In 2011, Differentis was asked by a company called Alert Me to redesign and rebuild an IOT platform for the smart home sector. Alert Me was later sold to British Gas and the platform became known as Hive.

Patience and his team gained a huge amount of experience and knowledge through this partnership, so much so that they decided to build their own IoT platform, but this time for the home care sector.

“We didn’t want to compete with Hive in the smart home sector so we looked at where this technology could really make a difference, and healthcare was the obvious choice,” Patience explains.

“We spoke to some of our previous clients from the healthcare sector to help us work out what our strategy should be and it was clear, from the discussions with them, that the future of care was in the home. That’s certainly where most older people want to be, in any case.

“So that was the start of it. We then spoke with some brilliant software engineers in the West Country who really understood how the technology worked, so we decided to merge the company. We took the name of their platform and we formed Anthropos.”

“I probably should be retiring any day now,” Patience jokes. “But I got excited about Anthropos like no other company that I’ve worked for
because I really do believe that our technology, with the right partners, can really make a difference to the healthcare system.”

How does Anthropos work?

Anthropos is a cloud-based platform that connects to a range of monitoring devices and sensors in a client’s home and combines the data they collect. It then converts this data into information about a client’s behaviour and their home environment.

This information can then be used to support improved care planning and delivery; help providers understand what is happening in the home when family members and carers aren’t around; provide reassurance for family members; and support pre-emptive care.

I got excited about Anthropos, like no other company that I’ve worked for, because I really do believe that our technology, with the right partners, can really make a difference to the healthcare system.”

Ten to 12 devices are installed inside a home, depending on the client’s needs, and these are then connected wirelessly to a hub supplied by Anthropos.

Sensors detect movement around the home, opening and closing of doors, and occupancy in a chair or a bed.

“The bed sensor tells us whether the older person is in the bed or has left the bed, but that’s not enough for us to understand what’s going on. So we also have a movement sensor in the bedroom and that will tell us whether there’s movement or not,” explains Patience.

“There are other movement sensors in other rooms that will tell us whether the older person has actually left the bedroom. So if the person has left the bed and there is no movement in the bedroom or in any of the other rooms, we think we’ve got a problem. We call that ‘no movement in a high-risk area’ and we will raise an alert.”

“That alert can either go to the care provider or it can go to a family member or remote emergency response centre.”

Anthropos is looking at how it could use geofencing and geotracking to monitor an older person when they’re out of the house.

As well as alerts, Anthropos also looks out for ‘actionable insights’ that indicate a change of behaviour. One example is increased activity through the night, or increased bathroom visits, which could be an indicator of a urinary tract infection (UTI).

“We also use Google Home for nudging,” Patience adds. “So if an older person has been sitting in their chair for too long, we can trigger a message to encourage the client to get up and walk around the house or have a cup of tea.”

Making a Difference

One example of how the Anthropos platform has led to better outcomes for an older person was seen during a trial for Home Instead. The technology detected that a client being cared for by the provider was regularly getting out of bed at night.

Recalling the incident, Patience says: “The platform learns client behaviours, so we knew this lady went to bed at the same time and she always slept through. We then began to notice that, having gone to bed at the usual time, she was getting up about 15 minutes later and going downstairs and sitting in her chair all night. We observed this for a few days and then we raised an insight to the care provider.

“When the care worker went to visit the lady, they very discreetly said ‘it looks like you’ve been spending an awful lot of time sitting in your chair through the night’. The poor lady said she didn’t want to bother anyone, but she had a sore back and was more comfortable sitting in her chair than lying in bed.

“Without that information from the system, the carer wouldn’t have been able to arrange for the client to get her back treated so she could go back to having a good night’s sleep.”

Given the many decades that I and some of my colleagues have been in the technology sector, we know what it takes to build a secure and resilient system.”

Another example of where insight from Anthropos has made a difference to a person’s life was when it discovered a client wasn’t drinking regularly enough, resulting in frequent UTIs.

“Two days after putting in our system for a particular client, we discovered she wasn’t drinking regularly enough and was wandering around the house at night. After we let the care provider know, they changed the care plan so that whenever a carer visited they left a flask of tea for her so they could monitor how often she was drinking,” Patience explains.

“She was living in an assisted living facility and had her own apartment, but there was a communal dining area, so we asked the people who provided the meals to check to see if she was drinking enough and having a meal. With those simple changes, we reduced the UTIs this poor lady was having.”

Competition

So what makes Anthropos any different to the growing number of businesses offering remote monitoring or assistive technology? Patience believes there are three things that set his company apart from
the competition.

“The first thing is, we have a lot of devices out there in the homes of the elderly people and these are the things that provide the data. The data is quite important because we make judgment calls based on that data about the health, well-being and safety of the older person,” he says.

“When you think about Hive, it doesn’t really matter if you can’t change your heating remotely, but when it comes to the health of an older person, you need to know that data can be trusted. We are continually checking that every device is doing what it should be, so we can actually trust the data that we are using to create intelligence.”

The second point of difference is that the Anthropos platform can take on almost any new device, at any stage, so it is able to evolve.

Information collected by sensors can then be used to support improved care planning.

“We demonstrated this with Home Instead and with Taking Care,” says Patience. “We don’t make the devices, but we buy the best available sensors on the market to do the job.”

Finally, Patience and his team have years of experience in the technology space.

“Given the many decades that I and some of my colleagues have been in the technology sector, we know what it takes to build a secure and resilient system,” he explains.

“We had to pass an enormous amount of due diligence tests to become a provider for Taking Care. We had go through all sorts of penetration testing and security testing on our platform and on our technology in the home.

“We also have a consulting background so we know what it takes to change the way providers do business. When they embed this technology in their offering, they’re going to change the way they deliver care and it’s going to improve outcomes.”

Future roadmap

Anthropos is well aware of the other players in the assistive technology market that are snapping at its heels, and so it has recently developed a roadmap that sets out how it will extend its capabilities and distinguish itself from the competition.

“We’re picking up on a number of things that are important to our customers and including them in our roadmap,” says Patience.

One of the main focuses of the roadmap is monitoring key care concerns, including falls.

“We’ve got to be better at detecting falls,” Patience admits. “So not just identifying that a fall has taken place, but identifying indicators that can suggest if an elderly person might be susceptible to a fall. A good indicator of that is gait speed.

Anthropos is looking to improve how it can detect and prevent falls.

Another key concern for families is if their loved one is going to wander outside of the home at night.

“We don’t use any wearables at the moment and although we can raise the alert that a person has left the house, we don’t know where they are. So we are going to look at how we can use geofencing and geotracking to monitor the older person when they’re out of the house,” explains Patience.

“We’ve also got to be better at monitoring hydration because not drinking enough water can lead to all sorts of problems in an older person. Another improvement area is medication management, so if someone is on medication, ensuring that they’re conforming to the regime.”

Anthropos is also looking to help people and their carers manage longer-term conditions. It is about to start a trial in Warwickshire with Unique Senior Care, a care commissioning group, a local authority and two GP practices to look at how technology can help with the issue of frailty.

“That’s going to be really interesting,” says Patience. “Dementia is also high on everyone’s agenda so we will look at how we can provide intelligence to better manage this condition.”

The CEO adds: “We’re also going to extend our capabilities around artificial intelligence and machine learning. And we’re going to integrate better with other technologies that a care provider could be using.

“We’ve got to build the right set of capabilities into our platform and we’ve got to keep working with social care providers to move forward with this technology because it has such an important role to play in changing the way we deliver care at home.”

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke