Jul 30,2020

Publish By:Beatrix Vereijken

PreventIT figures prominently on the EC’s Innovation Radar

The European Commission’s Innovation Radar is an instrument to discover the best and most promising innovations in high quality EU-funded projects. The latest Innovation Radar includes no less than four PreventIT results that address the needs of existing markets. PreventIT was a Horizon 2020 project (2016-2019) on advancing active and healthy ageing with ICT. PreventIT aimed at early risk detection of physical functional decline in ageing people by self- administered ICT-supported assessment and a behavioural change intervention delivered by use of smartphones and smartwatches. The highlighted innovations are a screening tool to identify seniors at risk of age-related functional decline, an innovative exercise programme integrated in daily life to improve strength, balance and physical activity in at-risk seniors, a profiling tool to tailor the digital version of the exercise programme, and a system to automatically personalize the exercise program to individual needs and preferences. These innovations are crucial elements in the development of future health services for an ageing population by offering personalized and effective interventions to prevent functional decline and empower older people to change behaviour towards a healthy lifestyle. Further development and implementation of all four innovations are included in the recently submitted Horizon2020 research and innovation proposals HAPPIER and co-SINAPSE.

PreventIT in a nutshell

Lifestyle, disease and biology put older adults at risk of accelerated functional decline, leading to falls, cognitive impairment, frailty, and negative consequences for quality of life. PreventIT developed and tested an ICT-based mHealth system (iPAS) for the consumer market, that enabled early identification of risk of age-related functional decline and engendered behavioural change in those at risk to adopt a healthy, active lifestyle. An integrated system of smartphone/watch functioned as frontend technology and a protected cloud-based platform for handling personal data as backend technology. We developed online instruments for risk-screening and self-testing, a novel complexity metric, a tool to measure motivation for behavioural change, and a method to personalise exercise by phenotype, based on currently available large epidemiological studies. The ICT-based intervention was delivered on a smartphone/watch with exercises integrated in daily life and underpinned by a behaviour change programme. We evaluated the feasibility of using technology and behavioural change theories in risk prevention by performing a multi-national feasibility RCT, the results of which allowed for recommendations for the next version of the personalised self-administered activity system, designed to empower ageing people to control their own health and function.

The innovations in more detail

The first highlighted innovation, risk screening tool, predicts future functional decline in the ageing population. We pooled the data of nearly 800 participants from large, ongoing cohort studies in Europe and analysed whether they could perform several activities of daily living independently over a time span of 9 years. For men and women separately, we identified three distinct subgroups with different trajectories of functional decline and the variables that predicted a person’s risk for functional decline. We translated these results into a web-based application, in which baseline values on the predictors can be entered and the computer automatically estimates a person’s risk. This web-based risk screening tool was subsequently tested with data collected during the feasibility randomised controlled trial. A further step was the development of self-administrated smartphone-based tests for physical function to allow people to follow their own functional trajectories over time.

The second listed innovation is the development of an intervention program appropriate for relatively fit young seniors that integrates small bouts of activities and exercises in daily life in order to improve strength and balance, decrease sedentariness and increase physical activity.

The third highlighted innovation is a profiling tool that was included in the iPAS and operated through a smartphone to give personalised intervention advice in those domains where an individual is most at risk and suggest the most effective exercises to combat this risk. The phenotype-based tool takes into consideration personal characteristics, function in seven different domains, and individual preferences.

The fourth identified innovation was a tool to individually tailor lifestyle-integrated functional activities in the domains of balance, strength, and physical activity. The tool assesses the appropriate starting level of all activities ranked in the profiling tool from very easy to more challenging, thus offering a personalised rank list of activities that help a user to choose those activities that benefit him or her the most.

The road ahead

PreventIT developed a proof of concept e-health system that empowers ageing people to adopt a healthy lifestyle to prevent or delay functional decline. To be commercialised and implemented in routine practice, the tools need a next step of development and testing. PreventIT partners have taken the concept of lifestyle-integrated functional activities a step further and are currently testing it in a group setting. Furthermore, PreventIT partners have submitted two new project proposals under Horizon2020. HAPPIER is a DHT-02 project proposal building on results from PreventIT and other successful EU projects by the consortium, aiming at developing and piloting a service model for prevention of physical, mental and social functional decline in the ageing population through use of digital tools, with focus on increasing health literacy and facilitating behavioural change in the target population. The second proposal, co-SINAPSE, is a DHT-04 collaborate project between Europe and Canada focusing on smart living environments for ageing people and transition of care in the post-COVID era. Future healthcare for the ageing population needs to shift focus from treatment to prevention, be digitalised to be sustainable and widely accessible, and empower people to take informed decisions about their own health and functioning. The identification of the four innovations from PreventIT among the most promising innovations from EU projects confirms that we are on the right track.