Solving old problems with new technology
In late 2014 we were approached by healthcare startup, Alcove, to help build part of the company’s “connected care” solution. Alcove had a mission of revolutionising elderly care and support, a goal driven by increasing demand for carers, shrinking disability budgets, changing legislation, and the rising expense and inflexibility of existing solutions.
Alcove’s strategy revolved around a four-pronged, internet-of-things care service, comprising in-home sensors to monitor patients, a wearable assistance device, smartphone and tablet apps, and digital tools to monitor the activity of care workers.
Our goal was to work closely with the company to define and develop the wearable technology portion of its strategy, known as Alcove Wearable, which needed to alleviate the problems care patients experience when trying to contact family members or carers during emergencies and moments of distress.
Building a bespoke, connected-care solution
Collaborating with Alcove, and informed by the biggest pain-points of their users, we determined that the wrist-based application needed to offer three core elements of functionality:
- A panic button, capable of alerting and contacting patients’ carers in the event of an emergency;
- Two-way calls, enabling patients to receive pre-approved calls from families and carers;
- Reminder functionality, alerting patients of an upcoming visit, check-up, or that medication needs to be taken.
Acutely aware that we were designing for a user group with limited digital proficiency and a very specific set of needs, we developed a bespoke solution that was intelligent, simple, and incredibly easy to use. Our development team constructed a fully-customised, stripped-back version of the Tizen operating system, limiting the functionality of the Samsung devices to the three core features agreed with Alcove.
Matched by a clean and straightforward user interface, the tailored watch app was designed to be as user-friendly as possible, and removed the possibility of patients accidentally activating a feature or navigating to a different part of the operating system by mistake. We shared a belief with Alcove that user experience was paramount, and that style and visual appeal didn’t need be sacrificed because of the demographic of the target audience.
Yes, the smartwatch does act as a big red button and it can be pressed for help if it is needed, but it actually tells the time and it’s got a funky leopard or zebra print strap. A lot of the older adults like a bit of fashion; people don’t lose all sense of taste and style as soon as they reach 70!
Redefining the healthcare industry
Since the product’s launch in 2015 as part of the wider Alcove service offering, it has received plaudits and recognition from the healthcare industry (links below). It’s estimated that the products will save care and support providers an average of £30,000 a year, while patients and their families are able to benefit from a more intelligent, efficient, and transparent care process.
During a trial with East Thames Group housing association, which has since materialised into a full partnership, 92% of users felt Alcove’s apps and systems were easy to use, while 84% of carers reported feeling less stressed since using the technology. Response times reduced by 78% during the trial, and East Thames Group were able to make cost savings of £35,000 p.a in just a single 4-resident scheme.
Peterborough City Council have also recently signed a deal to begin using Alcove’s suite of digital tools, and a number of awards have also followed. As well as being named the Best Internet-of-Things product of 2015 at the TTE Awards, co-founder and director Hellen Bowey also won Innovator of the Year 2015 for Alcove’s impact on the public sector.
Alcove’s technology has been making a great impact on the healthcare market, and we’re excited to see where it can go in the future. We’re proud to have played our part in helping Alcove build an intuitive, groundbreaking wearable product, and look forward to helping patients, carers and families reap the benefits for many years to come.