How smart meters could transform health and social care
By keeping a close eye on the energy use of the elderly and vulnerable, carers may be able to monitor when things go wrong, and find out more quickly when help is needed.
One of the most exciting aspects of the ongoing smart meter rollout is that this upgrade of our national energy infrastructure enables new innovations and services to be built around the data generated by smart meter users.
How can smart meters help?
There is a growing focus within our health system on providing the best care for people in their own homes. Whether individuals have a long-term condition or are vulnerable in other ways, technology can already offer a great deal to aid and support daily life.
With the consent of the householder, data from their smart meter could be used to help keep them in their own home for longer. So, for example, if there were no signs of electrical usage or heating in the house of an elderly person, a text alert could be sent out to a carer or trusted relative suggesting that they check up on them.
There are already products on the market offering this service, but by installing smart meters into every house in Britain we might create the platform to support future services at large scale and at good value.
That’s why we asked the team at the UCL Energy Institute to review how academics and businesses are starting to use energy data in healthcare. Their report, Energising health presents the findings and makes suggestions on how this cutting-edge field of work might develop, as well as the challenges that lie ahead.
Through developing this further, energy data can be analysed to recognise behavioural patterns and assist with monitoring particular health conditions. The potential is there to help shorten the length of stay of people in hospital, and even prevent people going into hospital in the first place.
A partnership between Mersey Care NHS Trust and Liverpool John Moore’s University is currently using smart meter technology as a non-intrusive way to monitor the progression of dementia patients. They are exploring how this could work with a wide range of other conditions.
The research is being welcomed by health care experts, NHS providers and health care charities, and is being covered in the national press.
Ensuring data is safe
The key will be to ensure that regulation enables both consumer confidence and innovation. Many individuals are happy to share personal information via smart phone, social media and fitness trackers, but there are challenges for both innovators and health organisations in getting this right at scale, and in a particularly sensitive area.
The smart meter rollout is transforming the way that millions of householders use and pay for energy, and the consequences of this upgrade for our national infrastructure could be far reaching and impact upon wider aspects of our lives, beyond our energy use.
Want to know more?
To find out what health care experts, including NHS providers, are saying about the potential for smart meters to transform health, visit our playlist.
You can also download a copy of the Energising Health: A Review of the health and care applications of smart meter data to learn more about the research.