A new video and audio calling technology has entered the UK market with the mission of eliminating loneliness among the elderly in health and social care – by promoting human connection through simplified social interaction.
Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown restrictions on visitation to care homes in the UK, Ernie Connects has just been launched to help combat the ‘three plagues‘ of care; loneliness, boredom and helplessness.
The latest figures from Campaign to End Loneliness show the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/26 – a 49% increase from 1.4 million in 2016/17. Research also revealed loneliness and social isolation increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in later life – up to 50 per cent in some cases.
Ernie Connects is a fully integrated communications platform, consisting of a tablet and phone, developed specifically to help older people connect with others – be that loved ones, friends, or their care providers.
For older people in care homes and hospitals, smart technology can be difficult to navigate, and it is often down to the staff to familiarise them with the devices. The software’s unique Touch to Talk technology enables it to connect people to loved ones independently and in real-time through one tap of a facial icon, freeing up invaluable time for staff and making it as easy as possible for the user.
The technology, which is CQC and GDPR compliant, is also easily accessible for those with cognitive impairments, as well as those with hearing and sight impairments. It can also be integrated with the whole care home system and send notifications around the home such as medical help and assistance, or events such as fire alarm testing.
Stuart Solomons, founder of Ernie Connects, said: “Put simply, loneliness is one of the great public health challenges of our time, yet it still isn’t being taken as seriously as physical health concerns, despite being a key driver in exacerbating mental health problems.
“In the UK, we now have more solutions to subside or even eliminate it entirely in certain situations. Smart technology is one of those solutions. Utilising devices that are specifically researched and designed to curb loneliness through promoting human connection and social interaction, is one of the most powerful tools care providers have at their disposal.”
In addition to its social interaction capabilities, Ernie Connects also allows for direct virtual consultations between clinicians and residents, saving invaluable and potentially life-saving time.
The technology’s name comes from a care home resident called Ernie, who had bone cancer and urgently needed medication to ease the intense pain he was in. Unfortunately, it took a week for him to receive the medication he vitally needed, leaving him in agony – with the delay caused by care staff needing to consult with doctors to organise the medication’s delivery, whilst Ernie lay bedbound and helpless.
His case was the key driver for the company to eliminate the unnecessary time period between residents needing and actually getting medication.
Stuart continued: “If we, as a sector, are serious about reducing loneliness and promoting healthier, happier lives for residents, whose mental health can be compounded if not dealt with, then we must look towards championing human connection through smart technology.
“At Ernie Connects, we’re passionate about creating a thriving, streamlined ecosystem of care where residents/patients and staff can utilise one-touch calling technology to connect with people instantly and infinitely.”
Alongside video calling, each tablet comes with its own built-in entertainment system designed to each user’s preferences, which allows them to flick through photo and video galleries, their favourite TV, radio, music and films, as well as keeping an eye on social media and the weather. It also comes with interactive Alzheimer’s apps.