FrailSafe’s final conference took place at the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) house in Brussels on the 3 April 2019 and brought together researchers, industry, policy makers, health professionals and end users to show-case the results and benefits of the EU funded project.
Haar Sören, EITHealh, opened the conference and welcomed participants before Vasilis Megalooikonomou, University of Patras the project’s coordinator, briefly introduced the FrailSafe project and the structure of the conference.
Setting the scene for the day, the first panel explained how technology is a tool to support independent living among older people and enables them to remain an active actor in society and their community – notwithstanding the importance of social interaction and care. Valentina Ancona, MedTech Europe, picked up this point, clarifying that in every step of care prevention-diagnosis-therapy-monitoring-after care we have solutions to assist us - the human touch is not missed but you have the assistance from technology. For example, looking at orthopaedics, implants and minimally invasive replacements support longer independent and active living.
Liz Mestheneos, 50plus Hellas, provided some insights from an older person’s point of view. She agreed that technology can support older persons and family carers with information, advice and reassurance but there are many challenges such as costs, accessibility, finding out which really works, support and training for/in the technology.
The second panel focused on the importance of addressing frailty as early as possible, providing tools and recommendations on how to ensure frailty is properly assessed and managed. Focusing on an integrated care for older people (ICOPE) approach, Yuka Sumi, WHO Department of Ageing and Life Course, presented the WHO’s community-based approach that will help to reorient health and social services towards a more person-centred and coordinated model of care, supporting the optimisation of functional ability for older people. Cristina Alonso-Bouzón, Hospital Universitario de Getafe, Spain, focused more specifically on building a common understanding of frailty in EU Member States, which is the objective of ADVANTAGE, the first joint action on frailty under the third EU Health Programme 2014-2020.
Responding to the previous presentations, Joke de Ruiter, Older Women’s network Europe, talked about her own experience with frailty and falls, and how an integrated, comprehensive approach focused on older persons is needed. She stated “The FrailSafe smartvest an be used as a great prevention tool! As we all know, prevention is less expensive then curing. Knowing earlier about the cause of frailty can enable us to take measures. It can save pain, inconvenience and costs.”
Yannis Ellul, University of Patras, agreed with the previous speakers, stating that FrailSafe has walked towards the WHO’s integrated approach by adopting a holistic approach of an individual’s physical and cognitive skills.
At the beginning of the third panel, Athanase Benetos, INSERM France, explained why the project started: the population over 80 years is the most growing and most heterogeneous population and many people in this group develop frailty, loss of function and intrinsic capacity. FrailSafe is trying to address these issues by going from a reactive to a proactive/preventive medicine, emphasised Vasilis Megalooikonomou, University of Patras. After a video showing how the FrailSafe system works, Kypros Polycarpou, a Cypriot volunteer of the solution, gave his testimony and experience: “the system is easy to use, put on the vest and follow your daily activities”.
A question from the audience concerning the potential application of FrailSafe in low- and medium-income countries, prompted the consortium to highlight that – despite the system’s focus on high-income countries – it follows a modular approach, so that parts could also be used in other regions. Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary General of AGE Platform Europe and moderator of the panel, noted similar challenges for rural areas in European countries with regards to infrastructure.
Concentrating on different aspects of the FrailSafe system, the last panel provided insights into the solution’s innovative aspects and benefits for users.
Vasilis Megalooikonomou, University of Patras, described how FrailSafe uses multiple devices and different parameters to feed the data analytics model that ends up providing a decision support mechanism. Even with a few measurements, the FrailSafe system is good enough to give accurate prediction of adverse events – for example using the smart garment and the games, an accuracy of nearly 70% is reached, which is more accurate than just the clinical assessment.
Marina Kotsani, CHRU Nancy, INSERM Est, described the organisation of clinical studies within FrailSafe in detail and showed that the system provides quick and accurate information for frailty evaluation, can predict hard outcomes and provides an opportunity for preventive strategies.
Roberto Orselli, Smartex, showcased the smart vest that collects the FrailSafe data, can be worn every day and washed easily - it also currently seeks medical device certification. Respecting the user-centred approach, Smartex made sure to include end-users’ feedback and improve the prototype. For example, a zipper was added to facilitate wearability.
Another device used in the FrailSafe project is the collection of games that focus on cognitive skills such as inhibition, problem solving or decision making and physical skills such as strength and endurance to prevent frailty, all while providing a fun activity.
Ilias Kalamaras, CERTH/ITI, presented the FrailSafe system’s dashboard that provides tailored information to older persons to monitoring their status, clinicians to provide interventions and researchers for visual data analysis – the level of accessibility varying according to the stakeholder.
Marina Polycarpou, Materia Group, shared the overwhelmingly positive feedback of older adults, Health Care Professionals, informal caregivers, IT professionals, commercial stakeholders etc. gathered during the evaluation of the system.
Finally, Kosmas Petridis, Hypertech (KP), highlighted the specific benefits various stakeholders can gain from the solution - be it healthcare organisations that get a proactive diagnostic tool or the pharmaceutical industry that gets more reliable results during studies, or policy makers that can use past records to calculate and design future policies – all in all, FrailSafe has something to offer for a plurality of stakeholders.
Further information are available in the following presentations:Sören Haar, EIT Health
Liz Mestheneos, 50plus Hellas
Valentina Ancona, MedTech Europe
Yuka Sumi, WHO Department of Ageing and Life Course
Cristina Alonso, Hospital Universitario de Getafe, Spain
Vasilis Megalooikonomou, University of Patras: pt1, pt2, pt3
Marina Kotsani, Inserm, France
Ilias Kalamaras, CERTH
Marina Polycarpou, Materia Group
Kosmas Petridis, Hypertech