ePartners4All: a (personalized and) blended care solution with virtual buddy for child health

In an ideal world, the physical and mental health and well-being of primary school-aged children are regularly monitored, health risks and problems are identified early and children in need of support receive tailored effective interventions, while children with low health risks are empowered through preventive interventions. However, there is a large challenge to advance the physical and mental health of children, especially in groups with low economic status and children with special needs or specific health problems. For example, in The Netherlands there is a workforce shortage of physicians, nurses and teachers, schools have a tight school curriculum with very limited space for additional support to children, there is hardly any sharing of information between schools and preventive youth healthcare (YHC) services, and limited availability and fragmentation of tailor-made and personalized (digital) interventions. For example, in Switzerland the provision of pediatric care is challenging. The care of children does not only take place in the health system, but also requires cooperation and networking beyond the medical care system – with actors in education, childcare and social services, as well as with families. There is a need to create equal opportunities for youth in health care and for advancements in digitalization, where limited progress has been made within the Swiss health system. A multidisciplinary approach, including schools as an active partner in health is currently lacking in Switzerland. E-Health solutions could support the health of children. This can be related to supporting therapeutic approaches as well as promoting healthy behaviour in a more general sense. Improving the structural aspect also bears the potential for leverage, it can act as an enabler for new services related to health data management, the development of data driven care models, an improved coaching of patients, more personalized approaches (e.g. in prevention) or improved health literacy. Better connecting all stakeholders might allow a more efficient use of the limited resources available (e.g. related to health cost and workforce shortage). Furthermore, such an approach complements ongoing activities regarding the wider implementation and connecting of electronic patient records (EPR). However, the use of digital support is usually limited to non-interactive teacher digiboards and parent-apps, which only focus on the school and progress of the child in terms of class grades. This is a missed opportunity. In this project we take digital support of school-aged children and their parents a big leap forward, by not only monitoring their health, but also by providing interactive e-health solutions (so-called ePartners) , including robot buddies and virtual agents that enhance children’s health and well-being. This project will further develop and integrate social Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies (like chatbots, conversational agents, predictive machine-learning models and educative games), into the above-described “monitor, assess and support” processes to advance the self and joint health-management of children and their caregivers. Secure automatic data collection via personalized interactive displays and agents will facilitate the health monitoring by schools, (preventive) healthcare services, parent and the child itself, and the initiation of appropriate interventions when necessary. The advanced data acquisition will enable machine learning methods to improve the health-risk and -management predictions. Furthermore, the conversational agent will act as a buddy of the child that informs and motivates both the child and his or her relative on the desired behaviours (i.e., providing feedback and explanations, tailoring interventions for the children and their caregivers, attuned to the health literacy level of the children and their parents). Technology and knowledge from previous projects, such as PAL and I-JGZ. will be reused, refined and fitted for this new type of application. The European PAL-project (Personal Assistance for a healthy Lifestyle) applied a similar concept for educating children with diabetes to learn to cope with their disease, providing a sound starting point for the development of ePartner4All with other potential use cases.
Nederlandse Organisatie voor toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk onderzoek
Berner Fachhochschule, Eyeware, Idiap Research Institute, Interactive Robotics B.V., Leiden University Medical Center, MedVision 360 BV, Therapieland, Topicus Healthcare B.V., Delft University of Technology, Service organization for Fire Services, Crisis Management and Public Health for the Gelderla, Xpert Health Cory Care
Pan-European research and development funding and coordination organization
Nov 15, 2021
May 15, 2024