3rings assistive tech will be ringing off next March (UK) (updated)

click to enlargeAnother assistive technology/TECS company decides that they have reached the end of the road.

Mark Smith, one of our Readers and Business Development Director of 3rings, which has been featured more than a few times in these pages over the past six years from Kickstarter days, this morning passed along the sad news that 3rings is closing. From Steve Purdham, the founder and chairman (and updated by him today 19 September):

It is with great regret and sadness that we have to inform you that we will be bringing the 3rings Care plug and Internet of Things sensor service to a close. 

After a journey of 6 years we have taken this decision because the technology adoption within the Social care market is extremely slow moving, which means that we are not able to attain a sustainable business model that would give the quality, and daily operational support that we believe is the minimum we would expect to deliver, to look after you, our customers.

Our customers including individuals, regional council’s and housing association’s that use 3rings as a safety net of care, are very important to us and this is the reason why we haven’t waited until the last moment to notify you of our decision.

With this in mind, we will be maintaining support for the 3rings care service, including the Plug and IOT sensors platform until Friday 1st March 2019.

Given the extended notice period we feel that this provides enough time for you to make alternative arrangements.

The 3rings team strongly believe in the world of IoT sensors and true digital solutions to provide a safety net of care, 3rings has always evangelised this as our goal, we know that digital safety nets of care will change the face of social care in the future. With that in mind we are still exploring alternatives and should anything change we will inform you at the earliest opportunity.

We are truly sorry to have to deliver this message, but can I personally thank you for your support, we are immensely proud to have helped so many families and vulnerable people, and to have saved lives through the 3rings service.

Your support for the 3rings product range made a massive difference, and we thank you for your understanding and commitment to providing to the safety net of care for your loved ones or clients.

Should you wish to clarify anything or have any comments then please don’t hesitate to contact me directly either by email on steve@3rings.co.uk or call me on 01260-222853 or my mobile 07899 803555.

Yours sadly
Steve
Steve Purdham · Chairman

Steve, in his separate note to this Editor, explained that they chose this four-month-plus winding down in order to responsibly look after their customers so that they have enough time to transition to other monitoring systems. Individual users of 3rings will be separately notified as well.

It was, as Mark said, a shock, but as this Editor noted in the Canary Care article from earlier today, in many ways the TECS/AT/telehealth business has not progressed much since 2006. The funding, technology, and consumer acceptance are all better since the early 2000s, but there is a lot more competition with not enough market takeup to warrant it. Even 3rings’ integration with the very trendy Amazon Echo and the IoT space showed innovation, but not the reward.

The social care area is more developed in the UK than the US as a concept. In the US, we speak more about ‘social determinants of care’, with one determinant–transportation–getting most of the action and the money. When you look at the truly disproportionate amounts of investment in certain hot companies with sexy tech, for instance a few ‘unicorns’–the now expired Theranos being the Poster Child–where far smaller amounts funding tech that works in real companies with real customers would do immediate good and would change things in the long term (longer than 18 months, which is the usual VC horizon), one wonders if we haven’t gone a little bonkers.

Yet those of us in the industry remain hopeful. As Steve Purdham said to me in a separate note, “the market has all the tools to change face of social care but the families and the existing structures are so glacial in the acceptance of this change. It will come and it will make a massive difference when it does.” We’re all trying.

We wish Steve, Mark, and the 3rings team all the best–and perhaps a White Knight will Save the Plug. Hat tip to Gerry Allmark of UK Telehealthcare as well for the information.

Canary Care goes into administration, is acquired by Lifecycle Software (UK)

click to enlargeAbingdon-based Canary Care, a developer and marketer of wireless sensor-based home health monitoring systems, has gone both into administration (the closest US equivalent is Chapter 11 bankruptcy) and been acquired by Lifecycle Software Ltd., a developer of CRM and billing software for telecommunications, internet service providers, and utility companies. In US terms, this is basically a pre-packaged bankruptcy.

According to their listing on Companies House, the administration started on 31 August. At the end of August, Lifecycle acquired the company (5 September press release). The Lifecycle website now features that Canary Care will be ‘keeping your dearest nearest’.

Stuart Butterfield, a Canary Care director as well as interim managing and technical director, was kind enough to answer my inquiry about the company’s status with a message that expressed a great deal of hope:

So, we’re still very much alive, and will continue to provide the Canary Care product and service that our existing customers know and love. As you will be aware, adoption of TECS is painfully slow. However, our new owner provides us with the stability and resources to continue to develop the Canary Care offering and we’re very excited and optimistic about the future and the opportunity to bring Canary Care to a wider audience.

Innovative assistive technology/TECS, despite the investments by major players, remains a difficult area for funding and adoption not only in the UK but also in the far larger market of the US and Canada. While we see a Best Buy acquiring GreatCall, we’re also reminded that GreatCall picked up the remnants of Lively for the IP and Healthsense for their assisted living customers and for the technology. The “name” health tech companies of the early ’00s are largely gone or no longer independent (Viterion, Living Independently, HealthSpot, Cardiocom, WellAware…)

In many ways, we have not progressed much from, say, 2007, in the field, except for tech advances and the number of players.

We wish Canary Care and Lifecycle success–and the patience they will need with this market. Hat tips first to a UK industry insider who alerted this Editor, as well as Gerry Allmark, managing director of UK Telehealthcare for help in sourcing Companies House.

Tender Alerts: Wigan, Salford, NICE (Manchester), Kirklees

Susanne Woodman, our Eye on Tenders, has four for your consideration, three of which are high value:

  • Wigan Council: “Delivery of Support at Home and Mobile Response Service”. Wigan is seeking TECS to support Borough residents in home-based independent living and in Managed Accommodation developments. The objective is to reduce the local burden of unnecessary hospital admissions, on emergency services, and to reassure families and carers about the person’s wellbeing. The contract is for 60 months and is valued at £2,375,000. Closing is 27 October at 10:15am. More information on TED.
  • Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust: “Provision of a Digital Control Centre”. Salford Royal will be the test bed for this Control Centre to potentially scale to the rest of the NHS. The Control Centre will use the latest advances in “data analytics and digital health to achieve a world-leading organisation which has operational excellence, the best quality healthcare and patient experience across the entire organization which also includes social care.” The five-year agreement starts August 2018 and is budgeted at £2.0m – £3.0m. More information on Gov.UK.
  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in Manchester: This is for the NICE External Assessment Centre Framework, to provide a range of health technology assessment services to support its technology evaluation programmes and related activities. It is in four lots: secondary data analysis, primary data analysis, technical and regulatory support, decision support. The contract is for 33 months from award and total value is in the range of £1-6m. Deadline is 20 November at 5pm. More information on TED
  • And a reminder that NHS Greater Huddersfield & North Kirklees’ tender deadline is 20 October.  This tender is open early engagement for the provision of a technology-assisted, rapid access service offering an alternative to hospital-based A&E services. Market test site is in Kirklees for residents of a care home. Requirements are:
    • A 24/7 clinical teleconsultation service delivered via secure video link into residential/ nursing homes, that is utilized instead of patients having to be taken to the local A&E department.
    • A service that provides clinical consultation not a logarithm based approach like 111.
    • A fully managed technical service utilizing bespoke laptops with HD cameras and with 4G SIM or broadband.
    • Deadline is 5pm on Friday 20 OctoberMore information on Gov.UK.

Tender Alerts: Staffordshire’s £70m contract, Yorkshire and The Humber test

Susanne Woodman, our Eye on Tenders, alerts us to two tenders, the first which will definitely pique our UK Readers’ attention with its size and duration. The second is for a proposal using TECS and telemedicine as an alternative to emergency services.

  • Staffordshire: This is a huge seven-year contract to create the Support For Independent Living In Staffordshire (SILIS) Service to enable older and disabled adults to age in place in their current homes. “A key aim of the Service is to help Individuals to make changes to their home environment that will prevent the need for more costly interventions, such as admission to hospital or residential care, following life crises.” The Service will improve upon existing services in Assistive Technology (AT) including referral to telecare providers.

There are six borough and district councils involved, with the potential for use by nine more. The contract is valued at £70 million to start April 2018 with renewal points, ending in March 2025. Deadline is Wednesday 1 November at noon. Much more information (you’ll need it) on TED EU-Tenders Electronic Daily

  • NHS Greater Huddersfield & North Kirklees CCG: This tender is for the provision of a technology-assisted, rapid access service offering an alternative to hospital-based A&E services. Market test site is in Kirklees for residents of a care home. Requirements are:
    • A 24/7 clinical teleconsultation service delivered via secure video link into residential/ nursing homes, that is utilized instead of patients having to be taken to the local A&E department.
    • A service that provides clinical consultation not a logarithm based approach like 111.
    • A fully managed technical service utilizing bespoke laptops with HD cameras and with 4G SIM or broadband.

The CCG may also commission an accountable care organization (ACO) for this care in future, to which this contract would transfer. Deadline is 5pm on Friday 20 October to brenda.powell@greaterhuddersfieldccg.nhs.uk. More information on Gov.UK.

Events: UK Telehealthcare’s autumn and 2018 MarketPlaces, UK Health Show

click to enlargeOur long-time supporter UK Telehealthcare has several upcoming MarketPlaces on their events page here–a quick guide below for putting on your calendar:

4 October London MarketPlace, Barnet and Southgate College, Southgate Campus, High St. London N14 6BS. 10am to 3pm

Speakers include
David Byrne – Principal and Chief Executive at Barnet and Southgate College
Alev Cazimoglu – Labour Cllr For Jubilee Ward, Enfield Council – Cabinet Member for Health & Adult Social Care
Doug Wilson – Head of Strategy & Service Development, Health, Housing and Adult Social Care

BSC is London’s newest centre of excellence for Technology Enabled Care Services (TECS). MarketPlace participants can visit the BSC CETEC Living Lab, a fully-furnished flat equipped with the latest technology.

23 NovemberBristol MarketPlace, Bristol City Hall, College Green, Bristol BS1 5TR

In 2018
13 MarchCambridge MarketPlace–more details to follow.
UK Telehealthcare is also planning MarketPlaces in Luton, Nottingham, and Dudley

Links to the MarketPlace pages aren’t up yet, so check the link above for more information.

Their page also reminds our Readers that the UK Health Show is on 27 September at the Olympia. With four shows featuring technology, cybersecurity, procurement, and commissioning, it is designed for senior healthcare professionals and decision makers to help the NHS promote and improve service delivery.

Tender Alert: Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust for TECS

One more from our Eye on Tenders, Susanne Woodman, is from NHS South West which is reviewing their currently in-house delivery of TECS, including monitoring, in Torbay. The Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust is seeking a fresh look at innovative services from providers who are interested and able to provide the full service from equipment, installation and monitoring, as well as bench-marking information. To review their current services and equipment (Tunstall), they helpfully provided this linkThis was posted today (15 Aug) and closes 1 September, so there’s only a short window. Refer to the Gov.UK Contracts Finder page for contact information and (importantly) document attachments.

Tender Alerts: NHS Wales, Southend-on-Sea

Susanne Woodman, our Eye on Tenders, brings to our attention two upcoming opportunities:

  • NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) is developing a “cutting edge procurement project to establish a Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) for Digital Patient Services Partners”, the first ever for health in the UK. It cautions, “DPS are a relatively new and untested procurement process that is believed will have significant benefit not only for the NHS but also as a catalyst to create innovative and agile markets.” Deadline for submission is 29 August. Details at Sell2Wales.
  • Southend-on-Sea Borough Council in partnership with South Essex Homes and the Southend CCG is in the early stages of evaluating technology enabled care (TEC). They are seeking to pilot assistive technology enabled care in a 96 independent living residential block ‘Living Laboratory’. No deadline listed. Details at Gov.UK.

Independent For Longer website debuts (UK)

The Independent for Longer website has been profiled on the website magazine Ucan2, which highlights mobility aids, assistive technologies, and techniques for better management of a wide variety of disabilities, including learning and autism spectrum. The website showcases real-life TECS (technology enabled care solutions) in the form of seven ‘case studies’ spanning ages from 20 to 79: brain injury, stroke, epilepsy, collapse, ill health, heart failure, and learning difficulties. Each leads the viewer through how a home can be enabled through the selective use of equipment to support independent living. The eighth section is about ‘Billy the Dog’, the Dementia Dog funded through JustGiving in memory of Tynetec’s Billy and Lisa Graham. The ‘Interested in Telecare’ page, where the user can find a service provider, links to the ‘Consumers and Carers’ page of the TSA website, where the first tab is ‘Find a Service’. This website is funded by Tynetec, which is part of Legrand Assisted Living and Healthcare–but is unbranded. Tynetec and Legrand are long-time supporters of this website.

What are the impacts of NHS CCGs forcing disabled and LTC patients into care homes? (UK)

click to enlargeCare for elderly and disabled goes off the tracks again. A report in the Health Service Journal (subscription required), covered in an opinion piece in the Guardian, indicates that thousands of patients who are disabled and also those who require long-term care may be forcibly put into care homes (US=nursing homes) rather than being treated and maintained in home care. According to the HSJ, “Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from campaign group Disability United found that 37 NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England were introducing rules about ongoing care that could force up to 13,000 people with health conditions into care homes.” CCGs due to NHS cuts have been setting limits on financing home care, between 10 and 40 percent above the care home option. In other words, where a care home is cheaper, the CCG will withdraw payment for home care, and unless the individual can self-pay or has an advocate who can organize a care plan, that person may be involuntarily moved.

The word ‘institutionalization’ deservedly strikes fear on both sides of the Atlantic as a recipe for patient decline, physical and verbal abuse, theft and generally bad care. It’s a blunderbuss solution to ‘bed-blocking’ which we discussed here [TTA 7 Sep 16]–the care plan becomes ‘move ’em out’. By going this way in policy, NHS England is going counter-trend, against more personalized care delivered in home settings, and setting an unfortunate trend for other countries like the US.

Outside the scope of the article, but in this Editor’s thoughts, is the knock-on effect it will have on the UK’s developers and providers of telehealth and telecare services/TECS designed to support home care. Many of these technologies are in a transition period to the greater capabilities (and freedom from land line) of digital from analogue care, which was discussed in TTA here. Cutting domestic demand may not only be critical not only to companies’ survival, but also to their expansion in the (now far more open to the UK) US market. Readers’ thoughts?

Welbeing’s expansion on BBC Norfolk, Tunstall’s #MarysVIPHome Christmas (UK)

We start the New Year off we hope in the right way with some good news on telecare expansion and media coverage, traditional and social, versus the gloominess that dominated 2016.

Welbeing, which has become one of the larger telecare providers in the UK from its Eastbourne and Wealden Council roots, was the subject of a feature on Nick Conrad’s breakfast show on BBC Radio Norfolk. This focused on their East Anglia expansion to 4,500 new customers acquired from Flagship Home, with phone-ins by an operator from their new call center in Dereham, a local Welbeing customer and a representative from Norfolk County Council. Welbeing has been on a recent tear with acquisitions in East Sussex, Cumbria, Stonewater and with Muir Housing, cresting their total users to more than 70,000. Of late there’s been a lot of downbeat feelings about the fate of telecare in the UK, so it’s refreshing to hear an upbeat local story for a change. News release. Hat tip to Charlene Saunders, marketing manager of Welbeing. 

Tunstall in UK has also developed a smart home type test bed in a sheltered housing flat to showcase how existing TECS kit, Tunstall’s and others, can be combined in everyday living. Smart home demos to interested parties may be old news, but Tunstall is cleverly using social media marketing to build it up. It’s hashtagged #MarysVIPHome with updates on Twitter. There are also has five demo videos on YouTube which show how a family can observe activity/ADLs without intrusion, plus connect the resident to care, improve their socialization and remotely control the home environment. This Editor saw it on a LinkedIn post before the holidays from Tunstall’s Adrian Scaife thanking their visitors and wishing us a Mary Christmas. Now we hope to see more of a narrative about a real Mary living there and using all that TECS. It’s a nice start to what we hope is an innovative 2017.

Chubb expands Community Care into Scandinavia (UK)

click to enlargeChubb Community Care, a UK company which provides home and mobile technology enabled care solutions (TECS) for independent, assisted, sheltered and extra care housing, announced their expansion into Norway, Sweden and Finland, partnering with Norwegian equipment supplier HEPRO which provides local service and market knowledge. Their first project is in HEPRO’s home country with the new Chubb Care Call. Care Call (left) is a colorful wall-mounted mobile-connected unit with simple buttons that connects the resident to onsite staff and remote call centers in case of emergency or need for assistance. HEPRO will be installing the units in seven municipalities. Release. Earlier this summer, Chubb won a contract with Places for People to install their CareUnity at 16 independent living locations across the North West, Hull and Bristol. Care Unity is a PERS/carephone-based system that integrates a wide range of safety and security peripherals. Release

Spuble’s near instant speech bubbles on your iPhone

click to enlargeYour TEC ‘charmer’ to end the week–technology enabled communication. Spuble (rhymes with ‘bubble’) is a new UK-developed app that translates speech almost instantly into large, easy to read cartoon-like subtitles on an iPad or iPhone. It uses the audio mic feature to create a large type ‘speech bubble’ to show to the listener. Gary Rolf’s impetus for it was to bring his 90 year old nan, Bett, ‘back in the conversation’ after nearly 10 years of being isolated with total hearing loss. The video on their website shows Mr Rolf with Bob, his granddad, using the app which was inspired by the subtitles on television’s ‘Coronation Street’. The simplicity of use is demonstrated in that Bob, aged a lively 96 and hardly a techie, uses it quite readily to communicate with Bett. If you have a family member (as I do and have had) with hearing loss, this can be a tool to bridge the hearing gap, especially in noisy settings or when the hearing aids chew up yet another battery and become expensive earplugs. This Editor was all set to install but (for her disappointingly) it’s not available for Android yet. Both that and multiple languages on the way according to the website. You’ll also be charmed by the video with the WWII anthem ‘We’ll Meet Again’ in the background and the very lively Bett and Bob, who enjoy their Guinness, with their inventive grandson. A small quibble–can it handle more than one speaker, and how well? Also KentOnline Hat tip to Editor Emeritus and Founder Steve.

Eight TECS expected to change health and care

click to enlargeThe King’s Fund is still bullish on the transformative capabilities of technology-enabled care services for health (even if others are not, see following article). This article (which almost passed this Editor by this month) highlights eight areas which have the greatest potential. Some are expected–but at least two are surprises. You be the judge!

  1. Smartphones: apps, as hubs/hub replacements, and research transmitters (voluntary but also involuntary?)
  2. At-home and portable diagnostics; smart assistive technology
  3. Smart or implantable drug delivery
  4. Digital therapeutics/interventions; cognitive behavioral therapy; lifestyle interventions
  5. Genome sequencing
  6. Machine learning (computers changing based on new data, spotting pattern) in big datasets (Surprise #1)
  7. Blockchain, the tech behind bitcoin; decentralised databases, secured using encryption, that keep an authoritative record of how data is created and changed over time, to bring together decentralized health records. (Surprise #2)
  8. The connected community; P2P support networks and research communities

The King’s Fund’s publications 1 Jan

‘Déjà vu all over again’ or critical mass? NYTimes looks at older adult care tech

“It’s like déjà vu all over again” as Yogi Berra, the fast-with-a-quip Baseball Hall of Fame catcher-coach-manager once said. About 2006-7, telecare broke through as a real-world technology and the tone of the articles then was much like how this New York Times article starts. But the article, in the context of events in the past two years, indicate that finally, finally there is a turning point in care tech, and we are on the Road to Critical Mass, where the build, even with a few hitches, is unstoppable.

Have telehealth, telecare, digital health or TECS (whatever you’d like to call it) turned the corner of acceptability? More than that, has it arrived at what industrial designer Raymond Loewy dubbed MAYA (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) in keeping older adults safer and healthier at home? The DIY-installed Lively! system keeps an eye on a hale 78 year old (more…)

Tunstall invests £100 m in ‘Connected Healthcare 2020’ strategy

Tunstall Healthcare Group in UK outlined today their five-year public, global strategic vision, along with a fresh investment of £100 million during this timeframe (~£20 m per year) to transition their connected care systems over to IP and cloud technology. The initiative, dubbed Connected Healthcare 2020, is centered on:

  1. Leading the switch to IP infrastructure–transitioning away from analogue (analog) services and devices to connected digital and mobile (cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth)
  2. Extending managed services–offering a wide variety of services end-to-end including full outsourcing
  3. Developing new consumer propositions through innovation–tapping into demand, often private pay, for high quality home care not provided by carers (caregivers)
  4. Developing new models of care in the home through integration–coordination of social care and healthcare

The Yorkshire Post article also points out, through their separate comments with CEO Paul Stobart, that prospective markets include developing nations with aging populations such as Mexico, South Korea and Turkey. Tunstall claims market leadership in UK, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Australia, as well as fourth position in the US. The TECS (technology enabled care services) initiative will create about a dozen jobs per year at the Whitley HQ, adding to their present 650 there and their total globally of 3,500. Tunstall release

We wonder if in the US we will see more of Tunstall at events like the mHealth Summit. Tunstall Americas has a refreshed website and communications as ‘The voice of connected health’, is more strongly promoting their call/contact services and its HQ location in New York City. We’ve previously noted their recent home care acquisitions and partnership with QMedic.

Cumbria Technology Enabled Care Event Thursday 18 June

This event will showcase the latest developments in technology enabled health & social care products & services. There will be discussions about how professionals can use technology in the redesign of Health and Social Care in Cumbria. This will build on the telecare work already undertaken by Cumbria County Council as well as the telehealth pilots that have taken place around the county and further afield.

It will be held at the Rheged Centre Redhills, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 0DQ, between 13:30 – 16:00 on Thursday 18th June.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • New tools available from the NHS Commissioning Assembly – the Technology Enabled Care Services Resource;
  • How to use technology to enhance health and social care priorities such as prevention and well-being, remote consultations, managing long term conditions, independent living at home, winter pressures, mental health and dementia care.

(more…)