Q&A: How smart home technology could improve life for people with mental and physical challenges | CBC News

A team of researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute say smart home technology might be useful for improving outcomes in people with both mental and physical health disorders.

Afternoon Drive host Allison Devereaux spoke to Cheryl Forchuk, assistant scientific director at Lawson Health Research Institute in London, to learn more about the promising research.

The following has been edited for clarity.


AD: Who were the participants in this study?

CF: Participants were people who had very serious chronic illnesses. In the past, we’ve looked at a lot of people with serious mental illnesses in our technologies, but this group had both mental and physical comorbidities, and in fact, all but one had three or more comorbidities. These were people that really had a lot of health struggles, and were at a point where they weren’t sure that they would be able to continue living at home.

AD: Will you tell us more about the smart technology that you introduced?

CF: In earlier studies, we looked at what I would call a medium dose of technology, which was essentially a smartphone that could send prompts and reminders, and allow good communication with the care provider. In those earlier studies, we were more specifically looking at only mental illness. 

What we’re looking at with this is more of a high-dose. For example, we had a monitor in the house that was like a touch screen where the prompts could come up. The lights would go off when the medication was due, then they press a button, and a little cellophane pack would come out with the medication that they required at that time.

Cheryl Forchuk is assistant scientific director at Lawson Health Research Institute in London. (CBC)

AD: Was that specialized technology or is it available?

CF: We made a point of picking up various devices that could be purchased at a relatively reasonable price. In healthcare, we have a lot more rigid standards about the technology because of the privacy considerations in healthcare. Any of the tools we use, we have to guarantee that that data was not shared with anyone else beyond the company.

AD: What was the outcome of all this? What did you learn?

CF: Well, what we learned is people were able to have a much greater sense of independence, and they were able to be comfortably managing in their homes. The interesting thing is when we asked about their perception of their health, they felt that their health was still a challenge. What really changed was how they felt their health impacted their life. By having these devices, they felt that they could better manage and cope with basic activities of daily living. 

AD: What’s next?

CF: One of the things we are really trying to push for is some of those changes we’ve looked at. We have also developed and recently published guides for how to choose devices that are used in healthcare so that it does meet the standard of healthcare.

The hospitals are full. We need to be looking at ways of treating people effectively in the community.

Afternoon Drive9:00Smart Tech and Mental Health

A new study out of London shows technology could play an important role in supporting people with mental health challenges. Afternoon Drive Host Allison Devereaux spoke to Assistant Scientific Director at the Lawson Health Research Institute Cheryl Forchuk, about how smart home monitoring solutions can lead to improving lifestyle and wellbeing.

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The Washington Now

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