It was hard to choose between the highs and the lows at the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s 5th Annual Research Day – high-tech and low-tech innovation, that is.
Held as part of two frozen OLTCA February days at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Toronto, the event featured six 90- second presentations by long term care (LTC) innovators to a TV-style den of three sharp and experienced LTC dragons. All with the purpose of identifying new ways to improve LTC care and reduce its costs.
At the high tech end, the dragons and many of the other LTC researchers, innovators, home directors, physicians, policy makers, and even students in the audience heard the quick pitch by Tracy Milner, CEO of BrainFx, based in Markham, Ont. Its BrainFx 360 tablet-based brain health assessment tool wowed them all. In the hands of a trained operator, the 360 can measure the effects of mild to moderate brain disorders and spit out a comprehensive profile of a patient’s entire neurofunction.
That profile, which is immediately actionable by caregivers, ranges across the person’s cognition, mood, behaviour, balance, sleep, diet, and the normal activities of daily lives.
“It’s a process that with traditional, manual methods would take professionals 20 to 30 hours to produce such a profile; but with the tablet we can get it down to less than two hours,” said Milner, a practising occupational therapist. “So with the 360 tablet, we can get the cost of a complete neurological assessment that would normally run from $2,000 to $3,000, down to $75 or less.”
Just as impressive was a $15 innovation, dubbed the ‘Hidden Pocket’, pitched to the dragons by Lynne Beer, a personal support worker (PSW). This 11-year veteran of the Vision Nursing home in Sarnia, Ont., has worked the gamut of long-term care through transfer-and-lifts, palliative care, continence and best practice teams. But it was a brief discussion with Vision’s falls prevention squad that first turned Beer towards her home sewing machine.
She designed Hidden Pockets to hold and hide a fall monitor securely on the back of a wheelchair. In that position, it is nearly impossible for a patient to remove the tattle- tale tab from their clothing before they attempt to get up without assistance.
Eschewing Velcro in favour of the venerable button, Beer designed Hidden Pockets to be held in place with an elastic, adjustable, button-holed strap that will fit any size of wheelchair back rest, or bed headboard, or lounging chair. Virtually anywhere a patient is not supposed to rise from without help. And if they do, they set off the hidden monitor’s piercing beeps.
So impressed was Dragon Don Fenn with Beer’s innovations that he subsequently offered to help Beer develop full-fledged business and marketing plans for her nascent business. Fenn is renowned in Canada for his commitment to LTC, especially in the home. He is chairman of the Fenn Group of Companies, president of Caregiver Omnimedia, and publisher of the Family Caregiver newsmagazine.
The other two Dragons in the OLTCA den were: Sarah Ferguson-Maclaren, a former North Bay General Hospital registered nurse who is now the eastern region operations director for OMNI Health Care Ltd. in Peterborough, Ont., an extended and nursing care provider, and Christine Ozimek, a 20-year LTC veteran who now is COO for PLTC, which owns and operates five long term care/retirement living facilities. Both have a keen eye for new LTC technologies and the early phase companies, care facilities, or individuals developing them.
Accordingly, they and Fenn took careful note of what Lindsay, Ontario-based Extendicare Kawartha Lakes, a 64-bed long term care home, is doing with a Swedishdeveloped innovation, TENA Identifi, a 72-hour voiding assessment tool being piloted for the first time ever anywhere.
“It gives tremendous help to caregivers designing toileting plans for incontinent patients,” explained Shelley Gallant, the clinical director for SCA Personal Care, a Swedish multi national handling TENA products in Canada from its Drummondville, Quebec headquarters.
The pattern of voiding is tracked by sensors in the TENA undergarments patients are wearing and the resultant data is uploaded wirelessly directly to the TENA Identifi web portal. “The incontinence reports for caregivers are then generated by the portal meaning there is no software involved,” said Gallant. “And importantly, you’re not relying on patients to enter their voiding times manually.”
Also in the wireless vein, Mark Seidenfeld, president and CEO of BCI Networks, gave the dragons a fast-paced pitch for the company’s SARA Wireless Emergency Call Systems.
“What it does is create a ‘Wireless Bubble’ as we call it around any facility,” said Seidenfeld.
“And the Bubble encompasses not only the nurse call systems, but just about every other generator of emergency signals, including wireless repeaters, wireless pull and plunger stations, wireless smoke detectors, wireless temperature controls, and wireless pendants that can all be plugged into any 110-volt outlet.
“So it doesn’t require any rewiring or changes to conduit infrastructure. That makes it affordable for retrofitting LTC homes and facilities that are often older buildings.”
Seidenfeld ended the Dragon’s Den pitches on a high tech note, but they had begun earlier by the dramatic entrance of a presenter artificially disabled by a low tech “aging” suit. The $3,000 Japanese-developed, tan-coloured overalls with red restraining straps and disabling head and eye-ware are being used by the Baycrest Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care – in partnership with the Michener Institute – to mimic the ambulatory, hearing, vision, and other physical limitations of the elderly as they experience the healthcare system.
“We call it ‘Taking a Walk in Their Shoes’ and we use it to shift the values and attitudes towards elderly patients of Baycrest staff, as well as our support workers and visiting students,” said presenter Jennifer Reguindin, a multiple degree-holding former RN who is now the interprofessional educator at the Baycrest Learning Centre. “They get in that suit and they can feel the limitations of aging themselves.”