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Technology with a human touch

The CEO of MySense, Lucie Glenday, on how technology can help meet care needs in the home

As digital technologies become more widely seen as crucial to modern business, organisations face an issue of talent. Not only in recruiting for experienced technical roles – where the talent gap has been widely reported – but also finding the right people for senior leadership positions. In this series, we speak to digital and technology leaders from a range of organisations, to find out how they're meeting their biggest challenges.

Change is rarely easy. Breaking established patterns of thinking and working, and approaching problems in new ways, requires courage, persistence, and a lot of energy... But it is possible. Looking back at the public sector over the past ten years, we've seen greater adoption of digital technologies, a move towards modern product thinking, and acceptance of the need to really focus on users.

Of course, there's always more to be done, but listening to user needs is a fundamental principle of digital transformation. After all, how can we fix someone's problem if we don't understand it?

This is the firm belief of Lucie Glenday, who has spent much of her career in the public sector, from Directgov, to GDS, to local government– and who is now the CEO of MySense, a wellbeing analytics platform helping those with complex needs to stay in their homes.

With the NHS under greater pressure than ever, a shortage of care staff, and growing numbers of people requiring support – now is a good time to ask how we can meet health and care needs... As ever, technology can help provide the answer.

Learning about the problem

After several years working on digital transformation in government, Lucie became Chief Digital Officer at Surrey County Council – which she cites as her first experience of working with staff on the front line caring for people in the community.

The concept for MySense was born from one of these conversations, with a care worker struggling to cope with the challenging behaviours people displayed due to dementia.

“My answer was really honest,” Lucie says. “I said to her that I couldn't fix the problem but we could learn about it. That if we were clever we could understand some of the behaviours people displayed before and after incidents, and maybe we could also monitor their stress levels in-between.”

The daily life behind the data

MySense, which Lucie founded in 2016, is still based on the same concept – understanding peoples' behaviours and learning when intervention may be required.

The product is made up of six sensors that are placed around an individual's home, and provide insight into their living patterns. This information is then overlaid with metrics such as their heart rate, step count and respiratory rate, to paint a detailed picture of their day to day life.

“We overlay huge amounts of data to build this pattern - around 15 thousand data points per day per person,” Lucie says. “We understand not only that a person moved from point A to point B but how long it took, how many steps they're taking, what their heart rate is... We then overlay this information with a whole load of historical information, and we can tell things like how their night's sleep was, whether or not they have taken their medication, and whether their health is deteriorating.”

All of this information is then served back for carers to review, with the technology flagging anything that is a cause for concern.

“The technology is super clever,” Lucie says. “It picks up things but it won't notify if it can rationalise why they have happened.”

For example, one of the company's super users – whose data is reviewed by the product team - is an elderly woman who delivers a newspaper to her neighbours every day. One day she didn't do it, but the machine didn't send her a notification to ask why.

“Her sleep pattern the night before was fine, her heart rate and activity around the home was fine, so the technology identified that the behaviour was an outlier,” Lucie says. “When we called her up to ask why she didn't go out, it was because it was icy outside. And she said she didn't get to 93 by being stupid...”

Context and control in the care sector

Products like MySense are extremely valuable in the health and care sector as they put peoples' behaviours into context. This is crucial to supporting individuals to continue to live independently in their homes.

“We're not expecting people to be the same all the time,” Lucie says. “But we need to understand why somebody might change their behaviour. This technology is not about taking away care staff's jobs, it is providing them with the tools to know when and where to give support to the individual.”

With enormous pressure on health and care services, this context ensures that staff time is focused only where it is needed. It can also triage individuals when intervention is required, reassure friends and family that their loved ones are safe and well, and ensure that people are able to stay in their homes for as long as possible.

“The concept of dignity and having control over your life, even when you are at your most vulnerable, is so important,” Lucie notes. “The dementia cohort we were studying had six months to a year of added independence. Working with a number of NHS Trusts, we've also reduced unplanned admissions by 46%, and GP visits have reduced by 56%.”

Building a culture of empathy

If the MySense product is about understanding its users behaviours and needs, so too is the culture at the heart of the business.

“We've spent a long time building a really strong culture as an organisation,” Lucie says. “We have people with huge experience in health and care alongside data scientists and backend developers. Everyone is there because they are brilliant at their one thing. But that means it is very easy to talk over people, knowing that you are the expert in the room.”

“When you have so many disciplines in a business you have to have that culture of respect, of listening to what people are saying and working out what it means for you. We have been proactive in how we hire and who we hire, looking for people who are active listeners, compulsive learners... So one of the massive tools in my skill set is the team we have brought together.”

This culture of respect also flows down to MySense's customers, which – as is typical of many products in the health and care sector – are made up of multiple different types of end users.

When catering to such a variety of different needs, it's even more important to empathise with peoples' requirements, perspectives, and expectations.

“I honestly think we wouldn't have the product we have today without putting ourselves in the shoes of the adult social care teams, the nurses we work with, and then also the end users and their families,” Lucie says. “The way we built it really does understand the difference between what all these people want.”

Get knocked down, but make things better

It has been incredibly tough in local and central government and the NHS for the past decade, and as we respond to the challenges of covid, Brexit, and the climate emergency, even more difficult times arguably lie ahead.

In spite of this, as Lucie says, with the right attitude there is still the opportunity to create positive change.

“It takes a huge amount of resilience to stick with your vision, with your passion for something,” she states. “There are so many things, so many knocks that might change your course along the way. It's the same in government as it is in business - there will be those who say you can't do it. But there is always the opportunity to make things better for people. And surely that's the end goal.”

Author

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Sarah Finch
Research and Insights Manager
Foundry4

Sarah is renowned for her ability to communicate complex concepts with clarity. She plays a central role in managing the insights programme at Foundry4.

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