Digital projects will support healthy aging, youth mental health

3 March 2016

The Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) recently announced funding for 22 innovative digital health projects, including three led by MSFHR-supported BC research teams.

A total of $13.8 million invested through the eHealth Innovation Partnership Program (eHIPP) will support technologies and tools that promise to improve the accessibility, coordination, and affordability of health care. The funded projects are split between two priority areas; eight will focus on youth mental health, and 14 will support seniors with complex care needs.

The eHIPP program is designed to stimulate collaborations between health researchers and Canadian innovative technology companies. By bringing academia and industry together, eHIPP ensures that digital health innovations are being developed and tested in partnership with the people who will need them.

MSFHR is supporting digital health innovation through the eHIPP program by providing matching funds to BC-based teams led by researchers Ellen Balka (Simon Fraser University), Kendall Ho (University of British Columbia), and Scott Lear (Simon Fraser University). Each team is working with industry partners to develop and implement digital tools that will address gaps in seniors’ care. Digital technology has a growing role to play in supporting seniors to age at home by improving the coordination of care and helping to avoid hospitalization.

Lear’s team, based at St. Paul’s Hospital, is studying the use of a new application, Healing Circles, that offers peer support to seniors. Social and peer support has been shown to help patients manage their health at home and in their communities, reducing the frequency of hospital visits. The application can be accessed on smartphones, tablets, and desktop or laptop computers.

Ho’s team is developing a monitoring system, TEC4Home, that will allow doctors and nurses to watch over seniors at home in the hope of catching health problems early. The system has the potential to reduce hospital visits and help patients stay healthy at home longer. The project is being developed in collaboration with the BC Ministry of Health and Telus Health with input from doctors and nurses.

Balka’s team is working to reduce adverse drug events, unintended harmful reactions to medication use. These often-preventable events are a leading cause of emergency department visits and hospital admissions for seniors. The project team will implement and evaluate a reporting platform through the provincial PharmaNet system that aims to improve communication of adverse drug events across health care settings and providers.

View all eHIPP-funded projects:

In addition to its financial support of these teams, MSFHR played a significant role in the BC research community’s response to the eHIPP funding opportunity. A one-day forum in February 2015, co-presented by MSFHR, brought together more than 130 participants for dialogue about digital health needs and opportunities in BC and the Yukon.

The workshop served to educate prospective applicants about the eHIPP funding opportunity. It also served as a crucible for future partnerships by connecting individuals and organizations from the research, healthcare, education, government and technology sectors outside their typical networks.