HomeTouch: A brand new service (UK)

Take two clever people and a personal need to co-ordinate care and communications for family members on different continents and you come up with another new service. The launch press release describes HomeTouch’s founders Dr Jamie Wilson and Daniel Mueller as ‘a former NHS physician’ and ‘an electrical engineer’ respectively. However, their About Us web page reveals that description to be extremely modest. The HomeTouch system is a monthly-fee-based software-as-a-service and has three linked components:

  1. a tablet application for older people, with basic services services including messaging, videocall, calendar and photo album
  2. a cross-platform (smartphone, desktop) application with dashboard analytics and services for families and carers
  3. an ‘intelligent’ server that monitors activity and manages communication between the two applications

At the moment they are offering some free trials – contact them through the HomeTouch website.

Let’s hope they have the funding and the nerve to make a success of it. Anyone with a decent product who is aiming at the ‘children of aging parents’ market that has yet to show any signs of taking off in the UK deserves some success. Ed. Steve

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  1. Jo

    It looks and sounds remarkably like the service that Saga plans to offer in the UK. Maybe it needs competition to sharpen up the propositions and to ensure that they don’t get carried away with how much children are likely to pay to monitor their parents (and that’s assuming that the parents are prepared to be have their homes invaded by the technology).
    Personally I believe that these approaches that facilitate interaction need to be balanced so that the monitoring is two way. Many parents are concerned about their grown-up children and would be interested in knowing what was going on in their households too.
    I suppose what lets down all these clever systems is that they are provided without any professional assessment of what the actual needs and risks might be. Inevitably, this must result in overmonitoring which has to be intrusive – and probably more expensive because it will involve more sensors and more installation costs.

  2. Thanks Steve and Jo for your kind and insightful comments. My name is Jamie Wilson and I’m the Founder/CEO of HomeTouch.

    Jo – I’d like to comment on a few of the points you raise. Well, funnily enough we learnt about Saga’s licensing of Grandcare systems technology recently and I think it will be good to have healthy competition as this drives innovation and make choice better for all. You suggest that there is a danger that technology will somehow be foisted upon unwilling elderly relatives at an aggressive price. I guess I would counter that any family will only pay what they perceive to be the value inherent in the service. Certainly what our customers are telling us is that its difficult to put a value on helping someone stay independent in their own home – a wish overwhelmingly expressed by older people and clearly in the interests of the state, families and other participants in the care system.

    Of course, it is true that many people perceive technology as intrusive, but the essence of a direct to consumer model is that the older person and their family have to consent and agree to participate. Indeed, surprisingly the strongest requests for our system have come from very elderly people who want to maintain connection with family thereby reducing social isolation. In fact, a core component of our platform is to facilitate the two way communication you mention rather than being a spy-cam model.

    On the professional assessment point – well, From my experience of 10 years in the NHS as a dementia specialist, professionals will have their views, but the almost universal wishes of older people who live alone are to stay independent, remain mentally and physically healthy and to be connected with family and friends. The clinical evidence regarding the harmful effects of social isolation is now indisputable and this is what we have set about trying to address.

  3. Kevin Doughty

    I am pleased to see another service that is available in this space. Competition will indeed drive innovation and will also help to raise awareness about telecare and the more general potential of information and assistive technology to improve the quality of life of our most vulnerable people.

    Of course, second and third generations require broad band connections – so these new systems will benefit people who might already have computers and internet access, rather than poorer people who already sit on the wrong side of the digital divide. I could imagine the service being bundled with broadband and paid for by the relatives of the service users, especially if they live some distance away. The problem comes when a potential emergency is detected and a rapid response is needed. 999 services may not be appropriate, so there may be a need for a private responder service. That may be the next big challenge.

  4. Cathy

    Hello Jamie, good to have you join in the conversation here.

    There are three sides to the assessment /risk assessment area which makes you both right and both wrong!

    Jamie you are quite right in your last paragraph in that professionals may have views but often their risk averse employer precludes them putting in place the best solution. You are also right that many older people do wish to stay at home and remain independent BUT it is not unusual for older people to have a false awareness of what they can realistically and safely do. Then families and friends become over cautious and it creates tension – so that is where Jo is correct that the risk of no professional assessment is that the family tension results in a poor choice of supports.

    However, where I think your service does slot into the sector very well is through use of a Direct Payment; ie the assessment is undertaken jointly between professional, individual and family (with individual’s agreement) but instead of accepting Council run monitoring services the individual may choose to have Home Touch instead. The really great thing being that the individual does not have to learn a new piece of geeky technology because they can connect their existing tablet to your service. Only time will tell if the price point is a little steep for some.

    Jamie does it already have built in communication suitable for sensory impairments?