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Innovation at Vinfen

sophie-jones-cropThe current healthcare system is unsustainable and innovative technologies just may be a significant part of the solution. As a provider of community health and human services working in the public sector our job is to help people self-manage their mental and physical health and to support them to live as independently as possible – to live where and with whom they choose, enjoy meaningful occupation and participate in their community. In addition to their psychiatric conditions or intellectual disabilities, the people we serve face numerous other challenges in their lives including poverty, unstable housing, unemployment, social isolation, and disruptions in their relationships with friends and family. Amid the chaos of these competing priorities we work every day to engage, and maintain engagement with them. It’s a rewarding job – but a tough one.

And here is where new technologies come in.

The opportunities that innovative technology presents to improve the delivery of healthcare are vast. Options include everything from clinical social media sites for substance abuse, self help websites for depression and anxiety, telehealth systems for remote symptom monitoring to smartphone applications for chronic disease management.

At Vinfen we are evaluating a number of these innovative technologies, investigating the feasibility of how a particular system may be used to enhance service delivery, improved self efficacy, provide information on illnesses and even reduce social isolation.

As part of our project to develop Community Based Health Homes for Adults with Serious Mental Illness, we are monitoring adults with co-morbid chronic conditions through an innovative telehealth system. This system presents the user with a daily ‘session’ of questions that are specific to the individual’s psychiatric and medical issues. The responses to the questions are relayed to a dashboard that monitors trends and flags areas of concern for staff. Staff can then provide the appropriate intervention including phone calls and follow up visits. Staff can also send personalized messages of encouragement or reminders that appear in the user’s next daily session.

Adherence to the telehealth system is good. In the second quarter of 2014, 94% of users completed more than 60% of their daily sessions and almost 30% completed more than 80% of their sessions. When we asked users to describe their experiences with the telehealth system most people talked about how they received information on their illnesses and how the system prompted them to think about lifestyle changes that would improve their health. Of particular interest though was that they reported feeling more connected – either to the telehealth device itself or through the device to staff.

The clinical results from this project are encouraging, however it would be premature to draw any definitive conclusions at this point. But clearly this innovative technology has potential and we will continue to report on the progress of this project.

If you would like further information on any of our innovation projects please contact me at 617-441-1755 or joness@vinfen.org.