COVID-19 continues to have a devastating impact on long-term care residents, hospital staff, and older adults with underlying health complications, both in Canada and around the world.[i]
Digital healthcare innovators across the country are responding to these challenges and leveraging their knowledge to address the immediate needs of seniors and their caregivers, as well as the broader longevity sector. The following innovations demonstrate the importance of flexible, digitally-driven healthcare resources that can evolve to meet the needs of older adults and their circle of care, both during the present health crisis and beyond.
ArtontheBrain is an affordable online recreation activity designed for all older adults, including those experiencing cognitive decline. The app presents visual art in an interactive online environment through enjoyable learning tools. ArtontheBrain offers older adults a way to stay informed and connected while maintaining their social and cognitive health. Powered by Baycrest and supported by CABHI, this scientifically validated intervention also helps to build a relationship between older adults and their circle of care with its easy-to-use, accessible app.
CareStory empowers caregivers and family members to provide person-centred care to older adults. By using a QR code, the app captures a resident’s personalized care needs, such as their medication or type of music that calms them when agitated. “This gives caregivers lots of support,” says Bill Dai, President of Emersewell, the company that developed CareStory with Baycrest. “It can reduce onboarding cost, time, caregiver turnover rate, number of responsive behaviours by residents, and use of sedatives.”
The app is especially helpful to new staff and volunteers providing extra support to long-term care facilities during COVID-19. By supplying real-time updates on the unique needs of residents, the app enables staff and volunteers to provide quality care and reduce workload. It also works well right now, given social distancing protocols; it gives family members peace of mind, knowing that they can contribute to the care of their loved ones from afar.
Through their partnership with SE Health and with funding support from CABHI, virtual mental health platform X2AI created Coach Cabi – a chatbot designed to help older adults reduce depression, loneliness, and social isolation during COVID-19 and beyond. Built by clinical psychologists, Coach Cabi is a safe, on-demand, confidential, and stigma-free source of support that older adults can access via text message or voice-activated programs like Google Home and Amazon Alexa. To date, X2AI’s chatbot services have provided relief to and improved resilience among more than 16 million people across six continents. With CABHI’s support, they’ve reached out to more than 20,000 older adults experiencing social isolation.
Careteam connects patients, their personal support teams, and healthcare professionals through a collaborative platform focused on person-centred care. The platform, developed and tested with support from CABHI’s I2P2 program, offers a shared care plan and secure communication. As part of its COVID-19 response, Careteam can triage COVID-19-related cases and provide tailored information, remote check-ins, and follow-ups. For example, if a patient has been tested and told to self-isolate due to risk of exposure, Careteam will provide follow-up care instructions specific to the situation and set up virtual check-in appointments with their care providers.
“Through Careteam we are able to make sure that a person’s COVID-19 status is being updated, while also making sure that their regular health needs are being addressed, so that they don’t end up with deteriorating health,” says Jeremy Smith, Careteam Chief Commercial Officer.
A subsidiary of Baycrest, Cogniciti is a free online assessment tool that older adults can use to evaluate and maintain their cognitive health. While Cogniciti does not provide medical advice or a formal diagnosis, it does supply helpful information about brain function and memory. After completing the assessment, users receive a personalized test score and brain health report they can share with their doctors. The Cogniciti platform also comes with a library of resources for older adults and caregivers of people living with dementia, including brain health workshops and a smart tracker that helps users monitor their sleep, exercise, and diet patterns.
Through support from CABHI’s Spark program, COMPAs – an evidence-based app – helps support person-centred communication between people living with dementia, their family members, and caregivers. The requirement to self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic prevents many family members from visiting their loved ones living with dementia in long-term care homes. With tools like COMPAs, family members can continue to communicate with their loved ones, while keeping them happy and safe. COMPAs can spark positive interactions and improve well-being in people living with dementia by connecting them to photographs, videos, and songs that marked a key moment in their personal lives. COMPAs’ interface is also simple and intuitive, with its content fully customizable to reflect relevant life events, and three libraries that formal caregivers or family members can upload.
With dementia on the rise, providing support for the family caregiver will be more important than ever. Baycrest@Home aims to fill important gaps in dementia care by empowering family members to care for their loved ones experiencing cognitive decline at home. Baycrest@Home works closely with CABHI to provide quality support to family caregivers using technology and innovative practices. Their integrated service offerings include helpful resources focused on system navigation and planning, safety in the home, caregiver support, virtual healthcare, and social engagement.
Curiato’s patient monitoring platform aims to reduce caregiver burden and improve safety measures for front-line staff. Powered by a thin, flexible smart bed cover, the platform transforms any surface into a monitoring system, one with the capacity to collect actionable health information such as temperature, moisture and pressure. Curiato also plans to adapt their platform to detect thermal stress (extreme changes in skin temperature), a known indicator for worsening conditions brought on by viruses like COVID-19. Dean Sas, Curiato’s Chief Business & Financial Officer, believes the system can build capacity in the healthcare system and prevent exposure to the virus by allowing staff to remotely monitor patients. “The technology we’re developing with support from CABHI can reduce the frequency of direct contact procedures with the patients,” says Sas.
CABHI-supported GeriMedRisk is an interdisciplinary telemedicine consultation and education service for doctors, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists in Ontario. Using telephone, fax and eConsult, clinicians receive a coordinated response to questions about optimizing medications, mental health, and comorbidities in older adult patients from a team of geriatric specialists and pharmacists.
Responding to the pandemic, GeriMedRisk has frequently updated their COVID-19 resources on the various experimental treatment methods available. Dr. Joanne Ho, creator of GeriMedRisk, says their geriatric drug information intends to help prevent adverse health outcomes caused by over-medication, drug interactions, and harmful side effects. “Our hope is that we can make it easy and efficient for prescribers to refresh their knowledge about medications, and to become familiar with the drug interactions as it pertains to their older adult patients.”
CABHI-supported healthcare startup, MEMOTEXT, is leveraging its Ring of Support (RoS) system to act as an at-home health-check and COVID-19 screener for seniors. RoS is a personalized platform that uses automated phone calls and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant to provide users with daily medication and event reminders. The voice assistant connects to virtual care provider, SE Health, so that a nurse can be dispatched in case of an emergency. Caregivers can also receive corresponding updates through their mobile device.
MEMOTEXT Founder & President, Amos Adler, wanted to adapt the RoS system to help seniors access around-the-clock healthcare without risking exposure to the virus by visiting a hospital or doctor’s office. Since it was launched in early March, the RoS COVID-19 Rapid Response tool has been deployed in the homes of more than 18,000 patients.