Health care has its share of challenges, but there’s no shortage of technological innovation in the industry, say speakers at the State of the Island Economic Summit this past week.
Mental health, seniors’ care and brain health were topics of a talk Wednesday, Oct. 26, at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre, where entrepreneurs discussed technological solutions for a range of issues.
Sean Burke, CEO and founder of CheckingIn, offering mental wellness programs and a smartphone application, said his company is working on a case study with Squamish First Nation. Considering the atrocities that happened in Canadian residential schools, an approach respecting language, culture and teachings of Indigenous elders and ancestors is needed, he said.
“It takes us from this idea that a Western approach to mental health can be ‘Indigenized’ and instead, it puts the actual culture and the language at the forefront, where we can then add on Western approaches to supporting mental health and well-being…” said Burke. “With different nations, what we’re doing is we’re building familiar faces, familiar people and again, integrating that culture and language into the tool.”
There are supports for many different communities, but access can be an issue, he said.
“What we tried to do is simplify and bring it into a one-stop shop to help people get those resources and supports they need…” said Burke. “We’ve had a lot of success. Basically the takeaway is that culture and language needs to be in the forefront and really bringing that out in the support. If we continue to take a traditional and Western approach to mental health, we’re not going to see the results we’re hoping to see.”
When asked whether Nanaimo-area Indigenous nations had been approached, Burke said he had set up meetings with Sheila Malcolmson, B.C. minister of mental health and addictions and meetings with Island Health “would be [the] next logical step.”
Rob Parker started ElderPrime, an app that helps patients record health information, after his father was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disorder in 2006.
His mother was primary caregiver, he said, and would track his father’s health condition on paper. When his father attended medical appointments, he would forget what he had talked to the doctor about and misinterpret information.
“At ElderPrime we really think that the health-care appointment is a good problem to solve … first we have some simple features for tracking elders’ daily symptoms: health symptoms, meds, vital statistics, questions for the doctor,” said Parker. “Then we take all of that and we package it up into the app and make it available for the appointments.”
The app also records and transcribes the entire appointment.
“Once we’ve collected all of those data, we’re able to analyze health trends, put them through our algorithms and then reflect back to people some recommendations of things they might want to talk to their doctor about or things they might want to investigate further,” said Parker.
Nolan Beise is founder of Circl, which offers brain-computer interface technology with a headset that interacts with an app and tracks cognitive performance.
“What I want to do is help people who need the help and [for whom] ‘brain fog’ is an issue. [It] is a general term that means the brain is not working as good as it used to and it’s impacting your ability to work effectively,” he said.
The app involves participants playing a five-minute game, according to Beise.
“It measures your visual processing of odd events,” he said. “And how our paleolithic brains are built is to understand information that wasn’t there before and assesses that information … So we’re measuring the delta between your information processing to new stimuli.”