By Season Osborne
The mHealth Lab at The Ottawa Hospital, led by Dr. Kumanan Wilson, is creating innovative, practical easy-to-use apps and new mobile platforms for people to manage their health information on their phones, tablets, or other wireless devices to be more involved in their own health care.
Jennifer Wolfenden is a nurse at McMaster’s Children’s Hospital in Hamilton. The mother of three said she lost her first son’s immunization record, and would often forget to bring the immunization booklet to the doctor’s office. But her problems were solved when she found CANImmunize online and downloaded the app. She got all her family’s immunization records from her doctor and input them into her phone.
“I don’t have to think about it. It tells me when immunizations are due. I absolutely love it,” said Wolfenden.
The idea for a mobile app to help people keep track of their immunization records came about in 2012, when a mother complained about paper immunization records to Dr. Wilson, a physician, senior scientist and Public Health Innovation Chair.
“We came at this from a user perspective,” he said. “We wanted to empower the individual to track their vaccinations, get accurate info about vaccines, and to schedule appointments.”
As each province and territory manages their health information differently, CANImmunize offers a potential solution to help address information gaps at the public and systems level. CANImmunize can be downloaded for free on the App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android devices. To date, nearly 210,000 people have downloaded the app.
Jerry Welsh was working an early morning shift on the Cumberland Ferry near Ottawa in January 2017, when his speech got oddly scrambled. He was having a stroke.
Welsh didn’t suffer paralysis, but his speech was affected. He was assessed at The Ottawa Hospital and found to be a candidate for a feasibility study to use a tablet to help with his speech and language therapy.
Stroke specialist Dr. Dar Dowlatshahi and his colleagues realized that stroke patients spend long hours and days waiting for therapy. Canadian studies show that stroke patients wait on average two weeks before they get rehabilitation therapy.
“We thought we could use a device to deliver early therapy while patients are in their beds, which solves the problem of waiting,” said Dr. Dowlatshahi.
The mHealth team built a first-of-its-kind platform called RecoverNow that works on Android tablets and uses commercially available apps during stroke and speech therapy. It allows clinicians to tailor the therapy to each patient by selecting publicly-available apps from the Google Play store. Health-care staff can change the apps throughout the course of treatment and monitor patients’ progress in real time.
“I tried the tablet and it just helped,” said Welsh. “I started having better progress in communicating.”
Welsh is confident that RecoverNow was a valuable part of his stroke recovery treatment.
Dr. Dowlatshahi is conducting a randomized clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of RecoverNow as a medical device so that it can be widely incorporated into stroke treatment in hospitals across the country.
The Ottawa Rules
The Ottawa Rules is a mobile and web-based version of the Ottawa Knee Rule, the Ottawa Ankle Rules, the Canadian C-spine Rule, the Canadian CT Head Rules, and mini-stroke risk, which are used around the world to help emergency medicine health professionals decide when to order x-rays and CT scans. With this app, the world-famous Ottawa Rules developed by Dr. Ian Stiell, an Ottawa Hospital emergency physician, and his emergency medicine research group, will be more accessible to the new generation of wired emergency department clinicians.
OkKidney is a phosphate management tool for patients with chronic kidney disease treated with peritoneal dialysis. The app allows patients to track their daily dietary intake of phosphate and recommends an appropriate dose of calcium binders to accompany each meal. OkKidney is being formally evaluated in a randomized controlled trial before being released to the public.
Project Big Life
Project Big Life is an online collection of health calculators that allow people and health-care providers to estimate life expectancy based on diet, physical activity, and lifestyle habits, such as salt intake, smoking habits, alcohol consumption and more. The project was developed by Dr. Douglas Manuel and his team at The Ottawa Hospital using surveys from Statistics Canada that are linked to health-care records. The free life-expectancy calculator has been used by more than one million people worldwide.
Season Osborne is Publications Officer at The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.