Technology Symposium at the International Psychogeriatic Association, Berlin, October 14th 2015.

( I  began writing this post just after the meeting but for various reasons didn’t complete it. I have decided to leave the beginning unchanged despite the overlap with a more recent post)


Following on from my prior posts from a Hackathon , a CCIO meeting , and a symposium on trial methodology , I am going to continue using this blog as a sort of reflective journal on various meetings I go to. The technology/healthcare interface seems to be the main topic of these meetings.  There also seems to be a certain evolution here – from tech evangelisation at the Hackathon, to more sober tech governance/implementation at the CCIO, to the trial methodology symposium’s more tangential take on technology … and now to a big, grown-up (not that the other meetings weren’t grown up) international meetings.

I went to the International Psychogeriatric Association meeting in Berlin – the main focus of which is clinical factors relating to psychiatry of later life (or old age psychiatry, or psychogeriatrics, or older adult mental  health, or whatever combination of those words suits) – there was however a symposium session on technology in this field. This symposium doesn’t have any kind of microsite I can direct you to – just the general International Psychogeriatric Association page and you can scroll down to see the details of the speakers.

Assistive technology is one of those areas which is subject every so often to breathless pieces in the papers about the latest somewhat sinister developments in Japan. (that is as far as my first draft went! The rest is written some weeks later)

What was impressive about all three speakers was their seeming immunity to some of the more hype-ish aspects of this field. The first speaker was  Josien Shuurmans  of the Dutch-led eCare@home – which involves “Tablet-Based Ambient Assistance for Older Adults with Bipolar Disorder or Recurrent Depressive Episodes” Shuurmans gave a presentation which covered the pitfalls as well as the promise of such a project, particular the multinational ones which the European Union are so fond of funding. She described a very user-focused project – among the learnings she conveyed was the importance of ensuring clinicians bought into the project and were comfortable with the technology as well. Listening to her, eCare@home sounded like something that could be beneficial at any age, so I asked her how age-specific it is. It turns out certain features such as the visual design do take into account eyesight issues and motor skills issues, but these apply to any age group, especially given the general health issues that often accompany psychiatric issues.
Next was Maurice Mulvenna , Professor Computer Science in the University of Ulster. His speech was specifically on  “Monitoring and Analysis of Sleep Patterns of People with Dementia” but was a much more wide ranging and stimulating talk, which included this great image which says so so much about design vs the user experience. Mulvenna discussed the pitfalls (again!) of the apparently straightforward process of monitoring the sleep patterns of people with dementia, touching on a wide range of issues.
Finally Jeffrey Soar of the University of Queensland, with a vast range of experience in healthcare and in evaluation of technology in health care  – his talk was on “Technological Support for Dementia and Ageing” the meat of which was discussing the process of evaluating assisted living technologies, and what works and what doesn’t. This is an area in which the initial hype has been tempered by experience. What doesn’t work is perhaps easier to define than what works – solutions imposed by well meaning family  (or wider society) without consideration of the person’s own wishes or desires, and technology-focused approaches that can do cool things but perhaps aren’t really what the person wants. One of Prof Soar’s observations has already re-shaped my vision of what healthcare could be so I guess that’s a tribute.


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