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Published: 12 February 2019

Trailblazing dementia study wins healthcare award

A pioneering technology study that has shown it can improve the quality of life of people with dementia and their carers has won a highly coveted health award.

Person checking their heartbeat with tracker device
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The TIHM (Technology Integrated Health Management) for dementia study, led by the University of Surrey and Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, enables clinicians to remotely monitor the health of people with dementia living at home.

It scooped the ‘Improving Care with Technology’ award in what is the world’s largest healthcare awards programme, run by health publication the HSJ.

More than 930,000 people in the UK have dementia, a figure set to rise well above one million by 2025. One in four hospital beds is now occupied by someone with the condition, yet in many instances it has been an unplanned admission that could have been preventable.

TIHM is based on a network of internet-enabled devices, such as sensors, monitors and trackers that are installed in the homes of people with dementia. The TIHM system is designed and developed at the University’s Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal, Processing (CVSSP).

Data streamed from these devices is analysed using data analytics and machine learning and any health problems identified are flagged on a digital dashboard and followed up by a clinical monitoring team. The aim is to help people with dementia to stay well in their homes, reduce unplanned hospital admissions and reduce pressure on carers.

A new development in the study is the use of AI to identify and help reduce one of the top causes of hospitalisation for people living with dementia - urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Scientists from the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing have developed machine learning algorithms able to identify early UTI symptoms to ensure more effective and personalised care.

The HSJ judges said TIHM had triumphed over other finalists because it had “evidenced great use of machine learning to solve very real problems” and that ‘the presentation had demonstrated fantastic improvements in patients with specific needs and the panel felt this entry was a truly deserving winner.”

Professor Emma Ream, Professor of Health Sciences Research at the University, said: “People with dementia are some of the most vulnerable groups in our society and are more susceptible to developing conditions such as UTIs which are treatable but tend to escalate if they are missed. TIHM will help overcome this and provide health professionals with the necessary information to treat patients early.”

Building on the success of this honour, the TIHM project was successful in winning a 2018 Innovate Guildford Award in the category Most Outstanding Innovation’. This prize is awarded to an individual, company, project or technology that in the judge's opinion most successfully demonstrate creativity and modernisation.