Collaboration drives health technology research

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By Jane Langille

As the number of new healthcare technologies continues to grow, West Park Healthcare Centre in Toronto, ON, is pursuing a growing number of research projects that have the potential to improve patient care and quality of life.

“Research and innovation have always been important drivers to improve quality of care, but with the recent explosion of new medical technologies, we have many more opportunities to create innovative solutions,” says Jan Walker, vice president of Strategy, Innovation and CIO at West Park. “In the past, manufacturers were more focused on selling solutions. Today, the relationship has shifted to more of a partnership model, where we work together to develop and test new ideas.”

Here are three projects that highlight how West Park is collaborating with healthcare innovators to study new technologies.

Next-generation medication dispenser

Medication adherence at home continues to be problematic, especially for older adults and people with cognitive impairment. To address this issue, West Park researchers are leading a Canada-wide study to evaluate the Karie home medication dispenser. Developed by AceAge Inc., the dispenser resembles a large mobile phone attached to a cassette loaded with multi-dose blister packs of medications. The unit schedules and then reminds patients to take their medication by chiming and lighting up, delivering the right dose at the right time.

The research project, headed by Tiziana Bontempo, Adrienne Kurpis and Sam Bassili, will compare medication adherence among 300 patients randomly assigned to use Karie or standard delivery methods using blister packs and vials over six months. West Park researchers and healthcare staff who provide education to patients before discharge are collaborating with colleagues at Capital Care Inc. in Alberta. This project is funded by a research grant from the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) under the 2017 Industry Innovation Partnership Program (I2P2).

A smarter hospital bed

West Park is working with other Ontario hospitals, to test the Ably hospital bed. Developed by Ably Medical AS of Norway, the intelligent bed incorporates machine learning to learn, mobilize and collaborate with patients at risk of falls and pressure ulcers.

West Park’s role with this project, headed by Pam Madan-Sharma, Lynn Suter and Penney Deratnay,  involves using an additional innovation, the MVN BIOMECH suit made by Xsens of the Netherlands, to evaluate the Ably bed for its ability to reduce musculoskeletal disorders among healthcare workers who lift and transfer patients. West Park nurses will wear kinematic suits embedded with tiny, 3D motion tracking sensors. Researchers will compare biometric changes in the nurses’ centre of mass and support base when lifting and transferring patients with the Ably bed and with a standard hospital bed. This project is also funded by a CABHI 2017 Industry Innovation Partnership Program (I2P2) grant.

 

3D scanning that incorporates a human touch

3D printing is now commonplace, accessible to the public at community libraries. West Park is using 3D printing to make assistive devices tailored specifically to an individual to help people regain independence in daily life.

It’s not as simple, though, to 3D print prosthetic devices. The hospital and its Prosthetics and Orthotics department headed by Winfried Heim, is working with industry partners to develop a scanning solution that incorporates the art of the prosthetist. Experts in their field, prosthetists feel and manipulate residual limbs to understand underlying bony and soft tissue areas that inform the development of custom-made devices for each patient. Standard 3D imaging misses those unique characteristics. By incorporating human expertise into 3D scanning, West Park hopes that in the future, it may be able to help people obtain high-quality, cost-effective prostheses on short turnaround time.

Jane Langille is a Toronto freelance writer.