PHIR+E and Centre for Digital Media bring a solution from Skunkworks: Hacking Aging to life

An app to enhance care delivery and family engagement within Canadian long-term care homes has been developed in a collaboration between Providence Health Innovation, Research + Engagement (PHIR+E) and Centre for Digital Media (CDM).

Innovation | Grace Jenkins

An example of the Oasis Connect app’s home page

An app to enhance care delivery and family engagement within Canadian long-term care homes has been developed in a collaboration between Providence Health Innovation, Research + Engagement (PHIR+E) and Centre for Digital Media (CDM). The app, called Oasis Connect, was one of the winning pitches at Skunkworks: Hacking Aging that received funding and support from PHIR+E to help make the solution a reality.

Skunkworks and CDM: Collaborating to solve complex problems

PHIR+E advances important research ideas by making vital connections between researchers and the resources they need to innovate, supporting the creation of new knowledge and solutions to healthcare challenges, and implementing those solutions in real-world settings.

Skunkworks is a unique innovation event series, hosted by Providence Research and PHIR+E in partnership with St. Paul’s Foundation, which brings together a diverse range of participants to address pervasive health issues with global significance such as Pain, Wounds and Aging, the themes of previous Skunkworks. This year, the theme is Chronic Disease.

Teams made up of people from a range of disciplines work together to ideate solutions to complex health care problems. The winning teams receive funding and support from PHIR+E to develop their project. Oasis Connect won the Technology Accelerator award at Skunkworks: Hacking Aging in 2023, which was presented to the idea that involves the best use or adaptation of technology. 

The team presents their pitch at Skunkworks: Hacking Aging. From left to right: Jennifer Gibson, Azra Sharma, Sara Suntano, Ryan Yeung, Maria Boteros, Tulia Ferreira, Jeff Lorz, Danielle Richards

The team presents their pitch at Skunkworks: Hacking Aging. From left to right: Jennifer Gibson, Azra Sharma, Sara Suntano, Ryan Yeung, Maria Boteros, Tulia Ferreira, Jeff Lorz, Danielle Richards

Skunkworks has partnered with CDM for more than three years to help develop some of these winning projects. Comprised of students from various professional backgrounds, CDM collaborates with academic institutions, industry groups and the community to create world-leading digital media programming that focuses on addressing society’s most important challenges.

For this project, the Sunnyside team from CDM used their expertise in coding and UI design to develop the Oasis Connect app. CDM additionally provided workspace, project advice, and other resources.
“Our solution is meticulously designed with a user-centric approach to significantly enhance the experience of residents, families, and staff within LTC facilities,” says Hannah Meng, a CDM Master of Digital Media student and the project manager for Oasis Connect.

App aims to address challenges in long-term care

There are many challenges faced by Canadian long-term care (LTC) homes face, including staffing shortages, inefficient call bell systems, and limited family connection. Oasis Connect aims to address these challenges with a comprehensive platform that blends resident-focused solutions with data-driven insights for care providers, offering a multifaceted solution to optimize long-term care delivery. The project additionally aims to improve work satisfaction and efficiency, as well as to identify staffing gaps. The Sunnyside team designed the app to provide an intuitive and aesthetically pleasing user experience that is tailored to be accessible for seniors.

Oasis Connect follows three main approaches to addressing these problems: data-driven resource management, family-centric communication, and personalized resident interactions.

The app facilitates data-driven resource management with a system that categorizes “call bell” requests into easily understandable types, showing LTC managers breakdowns of residents’ needs in real time. This enables informed decision-making about staffing and resource allocation.

“By identifying trends and volumes, it provides critical insights into staffing needs - whether there is a need to increase roles or optimize existing resources. This targeted approach helps efficiently allocate staff and enhances care response times,” says Meng. 

Statistics show that a significant portion of LTC workers’ time is spent in communicating with other staff about residents’ wellbeing, and in communicating with residents’ families, who often desire more insight into residents’ routines and activities. With Oasis Connect, a dedicated tablet in each resident’s room acts as an informational hub for families, providing information about care updates, outings, doctor visits, routine checks, and activity participation. This system makes information more accessible to families without the need for a direct conversation with staff, freeing up time for staff to focus on critical resident needs. The app also streamlines internal communications among staff with a system that allows them to add key care events to a resident's care profile, helping to transmit important information across shifts. 

Oasis Connect facilitates personalized resident interactions through an “About Me” section, featuring profiles filled out by residents and their families about the resident’s passions, interests, and history. Staff will be able to use these profiles to help get to know residents on an individual basis, enabling more meaningful conversations and contributing to the provision of person-centred care.  

“Overall, our solution streamlines communication, enhances operational efficiency, and fosters a more connected and transparent care environment, significantly improving the quality of life and satisfaction among all stakeholders in the LTC setting,” says Meng. “Our collaboration with Providence was vital, as it provided a unique opportunity to revolutionize healthcare delivery in public long-term care facilities.”

Collaboration was a ‘remarkable experience.’

The Oasis Connect app project, which utilizes innovative technology to help improve care in LTC homes, was made possible by the collaboration between PHIR+E, the team from Skunkworks, and the Sunnyside team from CDM. 

“Working with the CDM team was a remarkable experience. The innovation and creativity of the Sunnyside team produced a product that has the ability to shift and improve workflows of staff in long-term care homes, and thus improve the quality care for residents,” says Danielle Richards, Manager of Clinical Excellence and Program Education at Providence Health Care and a member of the Skunkworks team that originally pitched the project. “The team took the initiative to complete visits to multiple care homes, to further their appreciation and understanding of long-term care, the challenges faced by staff, and the lived experiences of families.”

Supporting the ideas originating at Skunkworks and connecting the teams with the resources they need to follow through with these projects, is one of the ways that PHIR+E is facilitating innovation at Providence Health Care. 

“PHIR+E was established to maximize the impact of research at PHC. By establishing these bidirectional partnerships between our researchers and external stakeholders, and through working in collaboration with the other components of Innovarium, PHIR+E enables research translation and a greater return on investment,” says Dr. Darryl Knight, President, Providence Research, Vice-President, Research & Academic Affairs, Providence Health Care, Associate Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia. 

Even more innovative solutions will be created this year at Skunkworks: Hacking Chronic Disease on November 14 and 15, 2024. You can learn more about the event here.