Together with ODI Leeds and Digital Catapult, Ian Sharp and his enthusiastic team at DHEZ have been extremely supportive of our vision and co-design approach to improving care outcomes for older people in our communities.
Last month, I sat down with Abhi Naha, Head of Business Development at Cambridge Wireless to talk technology, start-ups and how they can play a role in the home care sector.
We had a great chat and Abni asked if I could write a guest blog for their website to talk more about the Konnektis story, where we're at and our plans for the future.
You can see the blog here:
If you have questions, comments, feedback or are just interested in what we are doing, please email me at email@example.com.
Hello, I’m Mark and a co-Founder of Konnektis and welcome to our blog! We are a start-up whose goal is to enable integrated personalised care for older people living independently.
We’re doing this by using technology to improve communication and collaboration between the network of professional and informal carers that support older people.
The Konnektis story begins with my Grandad and our family’s experiences looking after him.
As he got older, Grandad suffered from a range of conditions, including dementia and, like many older people, he wanted stay in his own home for as long as possible.
Grandad lived alone and, to remain independent, he relied on a broad network of care support which included professional carers, informal carers and family members that could be local or could live many miles away but wanted to remain involved in Grandad’s care. Ideally, this network should have been able to collaborate in real-time to deliver the best care but that wasn’t possible due to poor communication, most of which was pen-and-paper based.
As Grandad became more frail, and particularly as awareness declined as his dementia progressed, he relied more on his care network, and effective communication became much more important.
Unfortunately, the paper systems couldn’t respond to this changing need and when things went wrong or where important information was missed, the consequences could be dire: frequent visits from the GP or admission to hospital if it wasn’t clear what was wrong.
Most of the time, there wasn’t anything medically wrong. It may have been that Grandad had woken that day feeling anxious for some reason, had eaten the wrong type of food, skipped a meal (he was diabetic) or hadn’t been encouraged to take a newly prescribed medication. Had those closest to him been aware of a small problem at an early stage, we could have intervened to prevent escalation into a crisis.
The results of this poor communication affected everyone. My family lived under a cloud that ‘something’ preventable may go wrong at any time and that we were powerless, try as we might, to improve things. Grandad’s health and wellbeing were affected significantly.
As much as anything, we felt that the paperwork held back the people trying to help Grandad, particularly professional carers, who do a difficult and demanding job because they like helping people, but do so with limited information.
Everyone’s needs and preferences can, and should, change day-to-day so how can we communicate this information better? How can we make care more person-centred?
I founded Konnektis with my father, who spent his forty year career building and running organisations that provide residential and home care for older people.
As we dug into the problem and spent lots of time with different users - carers, families, home care management teams and older people receiving care - we realised that poor communication creates real barriers for everyone in the sector:
- Older people feel under-informed about their care, even for simple things like when a carer will visit or if there has been a change to their day’s care schedule.
- Professional carers don’t have relevant real-time information at their fingertips about an older person’s needs and broader life and spend too much time filling in forms.
- Informal carers, such as family members, lack basic, easily accessible information and spend much of their time in crisis management mode.
- For care providers, managing a service business using paperwork is challenging. It’s also expensive since paperwork needs to be prepared, maintained and stored so most providers make poor financial returns.
It’s a problem affecting millions of older people in the UK and many millions more that care for them.
An ageing population with more older people living in their own home for longer will drive a need for integrated, real-time care and we believe that technology - when co-designed with users - can play a key role in making life better.
We also believe that expectations about how care should be delivered will change, driven by an ageing generation of Baby Boomers, who have lived life on a treadmill of technological progress and who will increasingly have to pay more for the care that they receive. As they move into their 70s, 80s and beyond, this generation will simply expect more of the care sector than paperwork folders and post-it notes on the fridge.
What are we doing about it?
Konnektis is a collaboration platform for carers that runs on a dedicated, secure 3G internet-enabled tablet that stays in the older person’s home and becomes the hub for real-time information to enable delivery of high quality person-centred care.
It is used by all of the care network and also by the older person receiving care, so that:
- Older people have information about their care and can play as active a role as possible in decisions about their life.
- Professional carers have access to relevant data about the person and their day-to-day needs and can quickly record high-quality, meaningful observations so they can spend more time caring.
- Informal carers receive information in real-time, enabling them to manage the care of loved ones more effectively and potentially stop small issues escalating to crisis.
- Care providers can provide a step-change in the quality of care provided since Konnektis will integrate with existing homecare billing and rostering systems, the platform offers a ‘plug-and-play’ solution that lowers costs and doesn’t require substantial up-front investment.
Everything we do is driven by user needs
When we first started Konnektis, we made lots of mistakes. By far our biggest one was relying too much on our own experiences and assumptions and not spending enough time with as many users as possible. We built a prototype quickly and, while it proved useful as a testbed to show what we didn’t know, we hadn’t taken enough time to genuinely understand people’s lives and their core needs. In particular, we hadn’t spent enough time with professional carers so that what Konnektis generated in terms of improved real-time information, it took away from a usability perspective. Basically, we needed a pivot.
We went back to the drawing board, bringing a great service designer called Holly May Mahoney onto our team. Putting the user at the centre of everything that we do, we have developed Konnektis in partnership with a regional branch of Age UK so that it is co-designed with carers, family members and older people receiving care. This co-design approach makes sure that we focus on meeting high impact user needs and is delivered in a format that supports widespread adoption.
Integrated, personalised care
Our vision is to build the enabling hub for communication and collaboration between carers and, ultimately, with healthcare professionals.
The core Konnektis platform is live and has been tested for six months by a cohort of ‘super-user’ carers and families from Age UK Medway in Kent. We have been very fortunate to find such enthusiasm for what we are doing and our co-design process wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of people like Clive and Judith, who have become real evangelists for what we are building and have used Konnektis hundreds of times as they care for their mother.
The next step in our development is to expand our trials to validate the positive impact of better communication on care outcomes for older people and to demonstrate the business case for care providers. To enable this, we have built a relationship with Queen Mary’s University in London, who have recently secured funding to support an independent assessment of Konnektis’ impact on care outcomes.
Whilst we need continued focus on getting the core offer right, we see a lot of scope for development. We believe that the demographic drivers of an ageing population will drive the need for radical approaches to the way that social care works, how it integrates with the healthcare sector and how technologies such as inter-connected devices, data analytics and AI can play a key role in enabling person-centred independent living for an ageing population.
We believe that Konnektis can play a central role in this growing ecosystem and look forward to sharing our views on our progress and challenges over the coming months.
Our progress is only made possible by the support of a growing number of organisations.
Last year, we participated in the Bethnal Green Ventures accelerator, which invests in and supports social technology start-ups in the UK. This provided the launchpad that we needed to test our assumptions and develop our prototype in partnership with carers, family members care provider management and older people receiving care.
Following our IoT UK win, we pitched at the BLN IoT 16 event in Cambridge as One to Watch, which was great given the level of innovative start-ups that were also presenting.
In April, we were very excited to be selected as one of eight start-ups to participate in Nominet Trust’s Social Tech Seed programme. This support is hugely valuable since it gives us a runway of funding and also twelve months of support and access to Nominet Trust networks that can encourage adoption of Konnektis so that we can improve more lives more quickly.
We have a lot going on and a great team to build and launch something that meets a very real social challenge. We will update our blog every 1-2 weeks with insights from members of our team, Advisory Board, users and guests. We will also be writing guest blog posts for other organisations so to find out more, check out our blog or follow us @konnektis.
We’re always keen to engage with anyone in the space so if you would like to get in touch, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.