Researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute have conducted a pilot study that showed how technology could improve the lives of people suffering from both mental health and physical disorders.
Dr. Cheryl Forchuk, assistant director at Lawson who led the year-long study, said the purpose was to see if certain “smart home monitoring solutions” could improve people’s quality of life, including screen devices, activity trackers, and medication dispensers.
“Some of the people were so overwhelmed and feeling disorganized and they were missing lots of meds which is very important. Some were getting up to four visits a day from the mental health programs just to take their medications,” said Forchuk. “Imagine what would be like in your day to day life to be tied to someone showing up four times a day.”
Lawson worked with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and the London and Middlesex Community Housing to retrofit the homes being used for the 13 participants.
Forchuk said all patients had multiple chronic illnesses, except for one.
According to researchers, using smart home monitoring allowed care providers to send important reminders to those participating in the study and helped them collect data over time.
“I think we were pleasantly surprised when we saw the results,” said Johnathan Serrato, a research associate at Lawson.
“Many participants talked about how they were able to live healthier lifestyles, it had mental health benefits, they were able to communicate with their friends, family, care providers and support staff so it was good to see that,” he said.
Once the study had concluded, they found that these pieces of technology helped participants better cope with their chronic health issues.
However, Serrato believes there’s more work that needs to be done.
“We really feel that this is an area that needs further exploration, so we feel that we have to put out a paper like this to encourage and provide a blueprint. It’s something that certainly warrants future research,” said Serrato.
After the pilot study, the research team also published another paper as a guide for “utilizing smart home technology interventions as a health care tool.”
“This paper is a helpful resource that outlines implications and considerations when it comes to smart home technologies,” Serrato explained.
“There are many areas we touch upon such as security, privacy, and feasibility, as well as hardware and software information for those who would like to take on their own similar type of smart home technology projects,” he concluded.