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Technology and health care for the elderly medical research studies

Focus on strategic priorities that have significant social impact.

HTIG 2014-20

Using mobile health applications (mHealth) to support communication with frail elderly people in long-term care

The purpose of the study was to examine the current status of communication App (cApp) usage in a sample of long-term residential care (LTRC) facilities and explore the feasibility of implementing a currently available suite of cApps as a tool to address the communication needs of care staff and frail elderly residents.

Research Results

FindingsFirst, we conducted a comprehensive review of existing cApps and found that there were relatively few cApps appropriate for use in LTRC. Second, through focus group feedback and questionnaires we found that most care staff did not use cApps in their care practice at the outset of our study. Our third major finding, based on both observations of and feedback from care staff using a selection of cApps during the study, was that care staff identified key features and functions that they felt should be included in an ideal cApp for the LTRC work setting.

Impact of findingsThe findings fill a gap in our understanding of how mobile technology and communication apps could be used to support communication between care staff and residents in LTRC. The data will also contribute to the next stage of this program of research: the development and evaluation of a suite of cApps that can best facilitate care staff communication with frail elderly residents.

Publications, presentations and webinars

About the Project

Due to recent technological advances, a promising innovative solution would be to pair mobile communication technology (MCT) (e.g., tablet, smart phone) with mobile health (mHealth) cApps to improve the quality of communication and person-centred care provided to frail elderly persons residing in LTRC. Although MCT devices and cApps (e.g., Voice-To-Voice; SmallTalk) appear to be an accessible and relatively inexpensive solution, it is currently unknown whether or how such technology is being used by care staff in LTRC.

To identify factors that influence current use or adoption of cApps, care staff completed a technology adoption questionnaire and participated in a FGI. Care staff were then video-recorded while using selected cApps during a routine care activity (e.g., mealtime) with one resident. Following the activity, care staff completed a questionnaire and participated in a follow-up FGI to elicit their perspectives on the advantages and challenges of employing cApps during care and on ways to improve cApps to make them more effective in their care practice.

For more details on the project rationale and research plan, click here.

Project Team

Principal Investigators:

Jeff Small, PhD -- University of British Columbia

Alex Mihailidis, PhD, MASc, PEng -- University of Toronto


Rozanne Wilson, PhD -- Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences

Knowledge Users and Partners:

Catherine Kohm, MEd -- Fraser Health Authority

Jo-Ann Tait, MS, CRPNBC -- Providence Health Care

Project Contact: Jeff Small --

HTIG 2014-20