Network enables friends and families to connect and contribute to care
March 6, 2014
“Let me know if there is anything I can do.” Delivering the news of a devastating diagnosis to friends and family usually elicits that heartfelt response, along with the assumption there is little they really can do. Caring for a family member facing a serious illness or a lifelong disability can be daunting and isolating. Vancouver-based Tyze, which has a cloud-based personal healthcare networking platform that enables families to build personal communities of care, is on a mission to change that.
Donna Thomson’s 25-year old son Nicholas has severe cerebral palsy. Before she started using a Tyze personal network, Thomson and her family in Ottawa used a variety of professional services, including night nursing to monitor her son’s severe sleep apnea, along with after-school helpers, her sister, neighbour, and mother.
She used a whiteboard and tried to connect with everyone when Nicholas was unstable and needed extra care. Some of the messages written on a medical chart on his bed were not getting through, for various reasons. This could be serious when changes in his medications were missed by some friends or other helpers who didn’t see the messages and assumed nothing had changed with his needs and care. Also, when someone couldn’t come in to help, Thomson sometimes had no way of reaching everyone quickly to find a replacement.
“With Tyze, all the medications are on a file. If there’s a medication change, everyone (on the network) gets an email. If there are side effects in the seizure medication, everyone gets an email and verifiers go out for appointments,” says Thomson. Also, she says, “if a task needs to be done, it goes on a task list, and people on the network can claim that task.”
Intended for use by family, friends, and in some cases, formal care providers, Tyze networks are designed to optimize and enhance the support and care they can provide. Networks of enhanced care and support are closely tied to better health outcomes, improved experience of care and better cost efficiencies for the system – the three Triple Aim dimensions, a framework of ideals from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).
Tyze Personal Networks are private social platforms that consist of a shared calendar, messaging system, stories and updates wall, file sharing and storage. Networks are set up to support individuals and families facing disability, chronic disease, end-of-life care and aging-related challenges like Alzheimer’s, fracture or replacement surgery or transitions between various care settings. The cloud-based solution is accessible on an affordable monthly subscription, and some healthcare providers also give Tyze to patients and families. Tyze was recently acquired by Saint Elizabeth Health Care, a not-for-profit community care agency which has been offering the networks to families.
Kerry Byrne, director of research at Tyze, describes the networks as a “set of tools and functions developed to mobilize informational, emotional and practical support.” While it is easy to see the importance of having a personal network for quickly delivering status updates and arranging for help, it is the emotional support that is just as valuable.
In fact, Tyze evolved in part from founder and CEO Vickie Cammack’s 20 year focus on developing strategies to address isolation. Speaking on the company’s YouTube channel, she notes how ironic it is in our “hyper-connected world that we are collectively growing more vulnerable to isolation,” and observes “there is no independence without interdependence.”
According to results from five online surveys, 88 percent of users reported that Tyze made it easier to share information, and 83 percent reported it was easier to coordinate care.