Healthcare Support System to Remotely Monitor the Elderly

Securely watching over the elderly while reducing the workload of caregivers

According to a Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) survey, the population of people aged 75 or older, which was 30.79 million in 2012, will increase about 25% to 38.78 million by 2042. In the future, it is expected that basically one in every five Japanese citizens will require nursing care. Aging of the population is a problem we must all consider seriously.

At present, family members who live with the elderly provide most of their care. According to another MHLW survey, among all caregivers, more than 60% become stressed due to constantly watching over patients to protect them from wandering off and falling. In care facilities such as special elderly nursing homes, there are instances in which patients with dementia walk around without nurses noticing and fall down. They may also be in too much pain to sleep, which nurses might be slow to recognize.

How can we safely and securely watch over those who require care while at the same time reduce the workload of caregivers, such as family members and nurses? Through the use of ICT Fujitsu is striving to overcome these issues associated with healthcare.

Remotely checking the status of patients in bed

The technology Fujitsu has developed uses a camera to accurately recognize hospital patients’ movements. By mounting a near-infrared day-and-night-vision video camera on a wall or ceiling near the bed, the position of a patient's head can be recognized in real time. The camera tracks head movements; when the head moves beyond a certain range, the patient is judged to be "standing up." This allows the system to identify the patient’s status, whether lying down, getting up, or standing next to the bed. Moreover, by detecting the movement of the patient's whole body on the bed, situations that require further attention, such as sleeplessness or restlessness, are quickly recognized.

To monitor the condition of patients, thus far hospitals have been using sensors that detect the pressure of body weight or movements. However, these approaches have problems; for example, a sensor may give a false alarm every time a patient turns over while sleeping, and a patient’s condition cannot be monitored correctly when sensors are not responding. Therefore, in nursing care facilities, nurses must still make frequent rounds to check on the patients.

This video camera enables nurses to check the condition of their patients remotely on a computer at the nurse station, freeing them from the need to make frequent rounds. The technology reduces the workload of caregivers and helps hospitals and care facilities provide a high level of patient protection.

Creating a home care support system by working with residential services for the elderly

Fujitsu is making steady progress in commercializing this type of system. In a field trial conducted in Tamagawa Hospital in Tokyo, the system detected behavior that required attention with about 91% accuracy (i.e. not a false alarm). By linking to an emergency-alert system for nurses and the electronic medical record system, Fujitsu is working to commercialize this support system in 2015.

We will continue to develop this technology with the aim of expanding the scope of its application beyond hospitals and care facilities to include residential services for the elderly and other in-residence nursing and care.

All of us face various challenges in providing medical care as well as nursing care for the elderly. Fujitsu will continue to work to address these challenges one by one with the help of ICT.