4th International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Ageing Well and e-Health (ICT4WE 2018)

CT4AWE is a meeting place for people who apply information and communication technologies in their daily clinical practice with a view to improve the quality of life of the elderly. Preventive health care in the elderly population as well as giving importance to the issue of independence of seniors in the society, also in the context of their labour market participation, are of utmost significance. ICT4AWE is conducive to/favours exchange of information and popularisation of the best technical practices, innovations and developments in the field of health care. This year’s edition of the conference gathered participants from twenty countries. The Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing was represented by mgr Weronika Świerniak.

The meeting attracted specialists as well as persons interested in the latest information and communication technologies in the field of ageing well and e-health. Four principal issues concerning the support of the elderly by their closest environment in the performance of everyday tasks, telemedicine and e-health as well as monitoring and independent living were discussed at the conference.

Within the framework of each of the mentioned issues, innovative solutions were presented and emphasis was put on the problems requiring further studies as well as adjustment of the present legal regulations. Particular interest was shown for the inauguration lecture delivered by Panagiotis D. Bamidis, a representative of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece & Leeds Institute of Medical Education, which was devoted to the threats arising from the Recommendation Health System, which is growing in popularity. The reported concerns most frequently pertained to the issue of privacy including, among others,:

  • various perspectives of user’s privacy,
  • the issue of who makes use of user data and for what purpose,
  • current relevance of user data (Does my present health condition correspond to the data that I wrote in the algorithm 10 years ago? Is the system updated and adjusted to the user’s change of lifestyle and habits?),
  • distributed recommender systems, homomorphic encryption.

Furthermore, issues connected with malicious attacks (such as preference falsification by means of fake users, exposing user data by obtaining preferences), as well as the problem of liability were discussed. There was also a presentation of an application within the framework of which the patient enters the symptoms of an illness, and then on the basis of algorithms developed by engineers is provided with diagnosis and recommended treatment regimen, which provoked a discussion on the issue of who, in such situation, will be held liable, for example, for administration of a wrong medication – the developer of algorithms, other users or the user himself? For that reason, there is a great need for adopting relevant legal regulations in this scope.

The conference featured presentations of a variety of devices used in the care of the elderly, including assistive devices, designs of intelligent houses and service systems for the elderly. Such devices are most of all designed to improve the quality of life of seniors as well as to help them maintain good health condition. An exceptional design of an intelligent house, the so called TigerPlace, is based on the use of university employees and students to monitor the elderly, thereby providing them with care. The role of technology in the care of seniors is becoming more and more popular, thus being conducive to dynamic development in this field. Particular attention should be given to the Health Buddy and AlereNet systems which prove to be extremely useful in the management of heart failure, which is a common health problem among the elderly.

Moreover, topics connected with the trust of the elderly in latest health-related technologies were also subject to discussion. The paper developed by dr Wiktoria Wilkowska presented opinions concerning the significance of determinants of this type of trust (reliability, credibility, operability and user-friendliness) as well as pertaining to the importance of different system functions for the users. User features such as age, gender and user’s subjective opinion of his health condition were taken into consideration as representative indicators of diversity among (potential) users. The obtained results showed a significant influence of the age and gender on trust (it was observed that women aged over 65 statistically more often use and trust new technologies). Trust-based studies involving medical systems used in the domestic environment emphasised the importance of diversity of the user group. What is more, as far as the issue of acceptance of medical technologies is concerned, patient’s awareness of his disability, physician’s recommendations (if the physician believes in a given system, then the patient will start using it as well) and finally the possibility of free of charge trial of a given device at home are utterly significant. Special attention was also paid to robots “with faces” since, in such situation, the patient gets the impression that he communicates with another man.

As a conclusion, the results of the papers presented at the ICT4AWE 2018 conference showed that the majority of patients aged over 65 did not accept smart solutions since they were concerned about the safety of their personal data in view of the lack of appropriate legal regulations. The challenge now is to find the answer to the following question: what can we do in order to encourage the elderly to accept such solutions? It was agreed that mixed health care (combining elements of in-patient health care and health care based on the application of telemedical solutions) should be implemented in the first place. However, in order for implementation of such solution to become feasible, it is necessary that doctors and carers provide patients with the largest possible amount of information concerning the latest systems and technologies used in health care.