Design students refresh ‘unstylish’ personal alarm

Students from the Glasgow School of Art have worked with the multinational security company Chubb on a project to re-design personal alarms for the elderly and vulnerable.

The innovative new devices, which are worn like pendants around the neck, have been repurposed to move away from “plastic and chunky” instruments, which were felt to be cumbersome and unappealing.

Instead, from later this year, people living independently in the community with a requirement to wear a personal alarm, will be presented with a much more attractive option.

Design student Matias Rinne, who worked on the project, said: “We started the project with GSA last January [2014] and Chubb was incorporated with us.

“We basically had a design journey and our task was to come up with a 21st century, new personal alarm.

“At the end of the three month project Chubb chose projects that they were interested in bringing on and they chose our work.”

Matias went on to do an internship for the company with a fellow student, and the pair refined the product “quite a lot” for three months over the summer.

If all goes to plan, the devices – part of a range of telecare products offered by the firm – should be on sale later this year.

He adds: “Since working with the people we realised that they don’t want to wear these plastic, chunky products any more. They want to have something which is comfortable, which makes them not feel like they’ve escaped from hospital; they wanted to wear something stylish, something new.

“And it’s possible with modern technology to get that into so much more of a compact space. So the comfort and the economics were really taken into account.”

Finnish student Matias, 22, was one of many students from GSA at a recent two-day conference organised by the Digital Health Institute and held at the Edinburgh International Climbing Centre.

Delegates from across the health service – from the voluntary sector, to nurses and senior hospital consultants – attended the ‘Revolutionising the Outpatient Experience’.

They were tasked with bringing new thinking to the NHS by mapping out the patient journey through the health system – aided by GSA students – and looking at ways of improving and enhancing the experience.

Better use of technology, although identified as ‘part’ of the process, was not the sole objective as practitioners and speakers highlighted every day working practices which could be improved.

But there was a realisation, and some frustration, that tech could and should play a key role but was slow at being adopted.

Common concerns centred around the risks to patient confidentiality by sharing data more widely and also the more general reticence to adopt anything new.

“We asked the question about not sharing data and patient confidentiality was always the get out clause,” said health campaigner Audrey Birt, rather neatly illustrating the point.

However, there were real-life examples of e-Health systems being used widely across the NHS in Scotland, which have been in place for a considerable amount of time.

An audience member cited the “brilliant” Patient View portal, which allows renal patients to ‘take ownership’ of their treatment, by monitoring their condition using a phone, iPad or PC.

Dr Brian Robson, Executive Clinical Director of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, said: “There are wonderful examples that we should study and why is it that they are working. Why is it that.. Patient View or in diabetes, like My Diabetes My Way, have been two outstanding examples for too long?”