Researchers in the Okanagan are working on a new tool to help health professionals connect with patients in real-time and support their journey towards wellness.
Okanagan College has teamed up with Monashee Heath Collective (MHC) — which provides chiropractic, physiotherapy, acupuncture and massage therapy services in Vernon — to test and launch a prototype holistic wellness app over the next six months.
Dr. Steve Piper, chiropractor and owner of MHC, recalls how his business, like so many others, had to change the way it supported patients when the pandemic hit.
“During early stages of the pandemic, phone and email communication with patients became the only method of service delivery in the short term,” Piper said.
“Although MHC is now providing limited in-person treatment in accordance with B.C.’s Reopening Plan, the need remains for new virtual communication methods to engage patients between visits. That need certainly isn’t going to go away even after the pandemic.
“Our job is to help people get better, and staying connected to our clients is critical in our ability to do that. As good as telehealth is, we’re hands-on practitioners, so enhancing that communication is vital to help us truly stay connected to our patients.”
Piper said while the pandemic has revealed a clear need for new types of communication between patients and practitioners, the project is one MHC had envisioned prior to COVID-19, albeit for a slightly different reason.
“We’re focused on supporting patients’ overall wellness in the long-term,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that people who practice an avid approach to wellness respond better to treatment, they are less often seen in the chronic disease model. This app will offer us a way to track and measure patient wellness.”
Researcher Kathryn Reimer said while there are already many apps on the market that allow users to track their activity, nutrition and sleep, none of these supports the needs of both health-care professionals and patients.
“We couldn’t find an app that did all we needed it to do,” Reimer said. “So, we set out to build one. Our goal is to create a tool that will bring benefit to a lot of people and really enhance the depth and breadth of communication between provider and patient.”
The project is one of many applied research projects at Okanagan College, which range from exploring quality control testing for craft beverage producers to encouraging natural outdoor play to innovation in hydroponics and greenhouses. The more than 20 current and projects represent more than $2 million in funding over the past year.
The app project is funded by a grant from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
If your company or organization has a problem that you would like to have researched, Okanagan College may be able to assist with researchers and funding. More information about Applied Research at Okanagan College is available at www.okanagan.bc.ca/appliedresearch.