4 Times Health Technology Mattered in 2017

The holidays are upon us, and 2017 is drawing to a close. Here at Aetonix, we’re looking back at the year in healthcare. Currently, there are major changes planned for home care delivery in Ontario. And recently, 2000 new beds and availabilities in hospitals, supportive housing units, and transitional care spaces were announced by the health ministry.

There’s no doubt that the province has been implementing major improvements to the care it delivers. These changes will have a major positive impact in the new year. But there’s one area that we’ve been watching particularly closely: health technology.

Innovation remains a major priority for Ontario’s healthcare decision-makers. As digital technology is making care delivery quicker, more accessible, and increasingly convenient, the current focus on innovation is sure to continue into the new year and beyond.

In this post, we’ll look at four times this year when the value of health technology was clear. Here’s to an even healthier 2018!

1) Funding announced for 15 new healthcare technologies

In April of this year, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MHLTC) announced the funding of fifteen innovative health technologies. The grants were aimed at supporting the development of devices and software that will improve home and community care. They were provided via the Health Technologies Fund (HTC).

Aetonix is proud to be one of the companies receiving support, testing, and assessment. Along with public and private partners, the Arnprior Region & Ottawa West (AROW) and Upper Canada (UC) Health Links have been putting tablets loaded with our aTouchAway into the hands of patients. The videoconferencing and information-sharing app is enabling better care for complex patients by strengthening circles of care.

The decision to fund these types of initiatives reveals just how much the government values health technology. Of course, aTouchAway isn’t the only solution receiving support through the Health Technologies Fund (HTC). From a scheduling platform aimed at reducing MRI and CT wait times to a tool that’s improving remote pharmacy coordination, the HTC has funded many technologies with great potential.

2) Study shows 32% of Canadians use mobile health apps

A recent study funded by Canada Health Infoway has revealed just how tech-savvy Canadian healthcare recipients have become. The study, which was conducted in partnership with HEC Montreal and CEFRIO, found that 32% of Canadians use health apps on their mobile devices. In addition, 24% use smart connected devices to track their health conditions or well being. With more people “going digital” than ever before, these numbers are bound to increase.

Another interesting finding? Just 28% of people in poor health consult these types of apps. Those with health problems may be less able to engage with technology for a variety of reasons. As just one example, older adults (who are often impacted by multiple chronic conditions) didn’t grow up in the digital age. Those with mobility issues or cognitive difficulties may also have trouble operating certain technologies.

Clearly, there’s a major opportunity here. Increasing tech literacy can help. But developing intuitive apps that everyone can use may have an even bigger impact, enabling all patient populations to engage more with their health.

Studies—like the one released this year thanks to Infoway—reinforce the value of health technology, which can help guide decision-makers in the future.

3) Complex Needs Working Group recommends expanded technology use

Those with intellectual disabilities and complex care needs face unique daily challenges. This is certainly true when it comes to receiving care at home. In a document dated June 8th of this year, the Complex Needs Working Group made a series of recommendations for home and community care providers. One suggested the expanded use of technology.

The working group describes how technology can “enhance support and access to home and community care for individuals with intellectual disabilities and complex needs.” The recommendation focuses in large part on the ways these technologies can bolster care in northern and remote communities. By monitoring health conditions such as diabetes long distance, care providers can help patients manage their health—no matter where they live.

This recommendation from the Complex Needs Working Group serves as a reminder for decision-makers in 2018. Those who live outside of Canada’s city centres deserve the same high-quality care as their urban counterparts. And technology can go a long way toward bridging the gap.

4) Healthy Behaviour Data Challenge finalists named

The Healthy Behaviour Data Challenge is a partnership between MaRS Discovery Centre, the Government of Canada, and the Centres for Disease Control. The challenge asks innovators to find new ways of sourcing and using public health data in order to improve healthcare across Canada. Technology has opened up all kinds of potential avenues to this outcome.

In October of this year, the initiative’s Phase 1 finalists were announced. Nine Canadian teams were named as finalists, as well as five American teams. From better nutritional information for expectant moms to easier ways for recreational athletes to find, join, and create sporting events, the solutions put forward by this round of finalists is impressive.

Congratulations to the many innovators who focused on solving major healthcare challenges in 2017. We look forward to learning what 2018 will bring!

Feature image courtesy of Jdmoar

 

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COPD Education – Onboarding

Objective

To complete a thorough needs assessment / initial evaluation for a COPD patient of an outpatient clinic

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT, the Physician could also be the educator)

Timelines
One 60-90 min session with the Educator

Description
  • This protocol should be established for all COPD patients from a given clinic, independently of whether they are new patients or they are known to the clinic. This protocol is the basis to engage the patient into other protocols such as education, exacerbation follow-up, etc.
  • We need to identify patient goals/concerns to guide the interventions
  • A thorough evaluation is carried on, with the objective of understanding where the patient is on their disease journey and follow-up treatable traits: dyspnea, exacerbation or dyspnea and exacerbation.
  • It includes the use of objective questionnaires such as the mMRC, CAT, HADS, Frailty Scale, etc.
  • Identify if the patient needs to be referred to other resources (e.g. Physiotherapist, social worker, occupational therapist)
  • Once Onboarding is completed, the patient continues to the COPD Education workflow
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COPD Education – Continuous Maintenance

Objective 

To cover in depth all the necessary elements of self-management education as per the LWWCOPD, with priorities based on patient goals and identified treatable traits

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT or Physician)

Timelines
A number of “Core” educational modules have been identified which cover the basic COPD education from the LWWCOPD program. Additionally, optional modules can be used to respond to patient needs. The timeline (frequency, number of modules to be covered at a given education session) is fully customizable, although we recommend to have education sessions every 2-weeks during the “active” phase of education. Once this is completed, the patient continues to the Maintenance Mode (see below).

Description
  • Launched at the onboarding protocol
  • Provide basic overview of COPD self-management based on LWWCOPD (medication adherence, inhaler techniques, PLB technique & energy conservation) up to the development of an Action plan for early exacerbation recognition and management.
  • Prioritize self-learning by the patient (e.g. watching videos, reading educational materials, completing homework) in addition to live sessions with the Educator. Educational materials are sent to the patient directly via the platform, and become the patient’s own library. The Educator can customize which “homework” the patient receives.
  • Educators have access to “User guides” to standardise their educational intervention. These user guides include: objectives, interventions, suggested questions, evaluation of self-efficacy, and learning contracts for each module.
  • Once the core education is completed, the patient can continue to the Respiratory Status Follow-up Workflow (run in parallel)

The Maintenance Mode
  • As soon as the maintenance mode is engaged, the frequency of visits Educator/Patient is reduced to once every 6 months.
  • During the Maintenance Mode sessions, the educator has access to all the education modules and can choose any piece of content that needs to covered with the patient. 
  • A streamlined evaluation (similar to the initial eval.) is done during each “maintenance” visit to identify any substantial changes on the patient’s needs that will require some adjustment. The patient could come back to an “active” education mode (more frequent education sessions, e.g. every 2 weeks).
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COPD Respiratory Status Follow-up

Objective

Monitoring of stable patients from a clinic in order to identify early any aggravation of symptoms (exacerbation) and implement an action plan

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT or Physician)

Timelines
Scheduled regular automated follow-up to the patient symptoms. Intensity/Frequency can be adjusted by the Educator depending on patient needs (e.g. daily, every week, etc.). Ongoing through the year.

Description
  • Launch: Patients who have completed the Core Educational including setting-up an action plan.
  • Regular automated questions allow to identify any change in patient’s symptoms and severity.
  • If an exacerbation is detected the patient gets a reminder to engage their self-management strategies while waiting for the Educator to call back.
  • An alarm is generated for the Educator, so they immediately call back the patient. At this call they will evaluate any further intervention required and schedule additional follow-up.
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