An applied research project by Okanagan College with Monashee Health Collective is focused on developing an innovative new tool that will help allied health professionals connect with patients in real-time – and support them on their path to wellness.
Funded by a grant from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the researcher and students are working to develop, test and launch a prototype holistic wellness app over the next six months.
Monashee Health Collective (MHC) provides chiropractic, physiotherapy, acupuncture and massage therapy services based in Vernon. When the pandemic hit, Dr. Steve Piper, chiropractor and owner of MHC, recalls how his business, like so many others, had to shift gears in the way they supported their patients.
“During early stages of the pandemic, phone and email communication with patients became the only method of service delivery in the short term,” explains Piper. “Although MHC is now providing limited in-person treatment in accordance with BC’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 says while the pandemic has revealed a clear need for novel types of communication between patients and practitioners to supplement in-person care, the project is one MHC has been envisioning even before COVID-19, albeit for a slightly different reason.
“We’re focused on supporting patients’ overall wellness in the long-term. 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 points out that while there are many apps already on the market that allow users to track their activity, nutrition, sleep and other areas of wellness, none of these support both health care professionals and patients’ needs.
“We couldn’t find an app that did all we needed it to do,” explains Reimer. “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.”
Piper is also quick to point out that many existing apps take a competitive approach to activity or fitness tracking, whereas this app will take a more holistic and collaborative approach.
The project is one of a growing array of applied research projects at Okanagan College, covering everything from exploring quality control testing for craft beverage producers to new means of encouraging natural outdoor play to innovation in hydroponics and greenhouses. All told there are more than 20 current and past research projects, which combined, represent more than $2 million in funding over the past year.
“This project is a marvellous example of what applied research is all about at Okanagan College,” says Dr. Beverlie Dietze, the College’s Director of Learning and Applied Research. “It’s about collaborating, working with industry and community members to identify, explore and fill gaps like this. We’re very grateful to NSERC for their support of this project and others at the College. Projects like this simply can’t happen without that vital investment in sharing expertise and applying knowledge on the ground, just as this team is doing.”
If your company or organization has a problem that you would like to have researched, Okanagan College may be able to provide with researchers and funding. Further information about Applied Research at Okanagan College is available at www.okanagan.bc.ca/appliedresearch.