Founded in 2013 by Dr Barry Greene and CEO Seamus Small, Kinesis Health Technologies, a spin-out of University College Dublin (UCD), is a digital health company driving advancements in falls prevention. “At present fall prevention services are usually only provided after an older person falls,” Small notes. “Our aim is to prevent that first fall, and empower older adults to live longer, healthier more independent lives. About 50% of falls can be prevented by motivating older adults to engage in falls intervention programs.”
To support that goal, Kinesis has created the first ever medical device that can accurately predict the risk of falls in older adults. The Quantitative Timed Up and Go (QTUG™) incorporates body-worn sensors and advanced machine learning software to identify people at risk of falls, as well as conditions that might put them at risk.
The technology was developed during the Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL) project – a collaboration between researchers, clinicians and engineers from UCD, Trinity College Dublin, St James’s Hospital and Intel. TRIL was funded by Intel and IDA Ireland and ran from 2007 to 2012.
Commercialising medical research
The two founders used a commercialisation grant from Enterprise Ireland, the national export agency, to bring the QTUG product to the market.
“We work with health and social care teams to deliver effective community-based fall prevention programs,” says Small
We develop digital health solutions focused on falls, our core product is QTUG™, a registered medical device which precisely measures patient performance in the Timed Up and Go test (TUG), a functional test extensively used worldwide.”
This is a simple test used to assess a person’s mobility and falls risk. QTUG™ measures the time that a person takes to get up from a chair, walk three metres, turn around, walk back to the chair, and sit down again.
Quick and easy to use, QTUG™ is employed by a broad range of clinical and non-clinical teams to deliver accurate and reliable falls assessments in the community at scale.
“Those at medium to high risk of falls can be signposted to support services to help them prevent falls,” Small adds. “We can give low risk older adults the confidence to remain active and mobile, with high risk individuals referred onto existing clinical services.”
Kinesis empowers non-experts to prevent more falls
The device has a number of advantages over current practice, which involves observation of a patient taking the TUG test. “Our device offers a more objective, reliable and accurate TUG test,” Small points out. “And it can be used by a non-expert. We have home carers, fire services and community pharmacists using it. It is also used widely in primary, secondary and residential care settings.”
The company’s primary focus is on the UK and US markets at present. “VHI has a funded programme for members to be assessed in 14 centres around Ireland,” says Small. “We have built up a good track record and brand awareness in the UK. We have participated in a number of NHS innovation programmes and have won a number of awards including the prestige Tech Day pitching competition at the 21st International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG) World Congress in San Francisco.”
In addition, NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) recently issued a briefing note on the QTUG technology and its utility in assessing falls risk and frailty and includes QTUG™ in their falls pathway.
“We are now moving out of the early market validation stage and on to the growth phase,” Small adds. “Our focus will be the UK and US for the time being. We no longer have to prove that the technology works. In the UK, we are working with East Midlands health and social care teams to deliver a large-scale programme that focuses on the prevention and management of falls in older people through risk assessment, prevention programmes, intensive monitoring and management. In the longer term we are looking to the US market as we scale the business.”
The future will see a continuing focus on digital health. “We’re looking at providing digital health solutions for patients in the older adult community,” says Small. “We also want to improve awareness of falls and the need for regular screening. That will in turn lead to more targeted and effective interventions.”