Lawson explores technology to support youth mental health

Researchers smiling at camera.

Lawson explores technology to support youth mental health

Puneet Seth, Jennifer Moles, Dr. Cheryl Forchuk, Dr. Sandra Fisman and Damon Ramsay spoke at the funding announcement in February 2019.

Imagine having your care team at your fingertips. Picture opening an app on your phone to schedule a virtual visit where you can have a face-to-face meeting, without ever leaving your home. What if you could fill out an online questionnaire and instantly send it to your physician to let them know how you are doing?

As technology advances, the opportunities to connect and empower patients and clients seem endless. Mental health services are rooted in these relationships. For delivery, specifically community-based and outpatient services, connection and communication between an individual and the care provider are a priority focus.

But how do we integrate technology into mental health services, without losing that sense of connection?

While it may seem easy to download an app on a phone or tablet, this can bring issues with privacy and security. Many apps are not proven effective, and some can actually do more harm than good.

In the health care sector, the use of technology needs to be carefully tested and implemented through evidence-based research, to ensure it is not only meeting the needs of those using it but also that it complies with standards for privacy and security.

Through funding from the Government of Ontario’s Health Technologies Fund (HTF), researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute (the Research Institute of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London) are partnering with industry to develop a unique approach to connect technology and mental health care. TELEPROM-Y is a mobile-based TELEMedicine and Patient-Reported Outcome Measurement Youth study that looks to leverage technology to improve access to specialized services and reduce inpatient mental health admissions for youth.

Technology is a regular form of communication for youth and they are a vulnerable population when it comes to mental health challenges. “Our research team is looking at how technology can assist in the delivery of mental health services for youth in a way that still supports the important components of treatment,” says Dr. Cheryl Forchuk, Assistant Scientific Director at Lawson and lead for the study. “In our work with youth, they’ve talked about wanting the technology they are already using integrated into their care.”

The majority of mental illnesses occur between the ages of 16 to 25 years old. This important transitional period in a youth’s life marks an opportunity for them to be actively engaged in their own care journey.

Researchers will use an electronic Collaborative Health Record (CHR) developed by InputHealth, an innovative Canadian digital health software company. This software allows secure communication between the patient and care team. Patients will have access to virtual visits, prompts and reminders, text or email messages, and educational materials delivered by phone or another device.

The research team is recruiting participants between the ages of 16 to 25 years old who have symptoms of anxiety and/or depression and are receiving outpatient services from a hospital-based mental health care program at London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Health Care London, Woodstock General Hospital, or community-based services from partner organizations. A key aspect the research team is investigating is whether the technology is effective and efficient, while acceptable to both the care team and youth.

Two men demonstrating phone app.

“We know from research that remuneration on mood, or focusing deeply on mood, without communication can actually increase depression,” says Dr. Cheryl Forchuk. “We’ve only been interested in technology that supports the relationships necessary for mental health services.”

The mobile software will also be evaluated on its ability to improve access to care; monitor mood and behaviour changes for earlier intervention; enhance information exchange between patient and health care provider; and, support the overall experience for the youth.

“Careful evaluation is essential to make sure we are doing the right things for the people we serve,” adds Dr. Forchuk, who is also the Beryl and Richard Ivey Research Chair in Aging, Mental Health, Rehabilitation and Recovery at Lawson and Western University.

This initiative is one of 11 that received funding from Ontario’s second round of the Health Technologies Fund (HTF), a program of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care administered by Ontario Centres of Excellence. This funding program supports the development of made in Ontario health technologies by accelerating evaluation, procurement, adoption and diffusion within the Ontario health system.

TELEPROM-Y received $395,109 in provincial funding with $494,630 in matching contributions for a total investment of $889,739.

“This collaboration matches financial investment from the province, along with technical tools and expertise from the private sector, with our patient-centred approach,” says Dr. Forchuk. “Together, we can bring solutions to life and translate them quickly to care delivery once shown to be effective.”

Other project contributors include St. Michael’s Hospital Centre for Excellence in Economic Analysis Research, The Forge (McMaster University), Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, Western University and Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.).

The TELEPROM-Y study is one example of how dedicated research funding can be used to drive discovery with potential to create a tangible impact on patients. Research-intensive hospitals are improving health care, creating jobs and contributing to the country’s growing knowledge economy.

Lawson is one of Ontario’s 23 research hospitals that contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter province. Look for other RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter blog or join the conversation about why health research matters for Ontario on Twitter, using the hashtag #onHWS.

SickKids leading medical breakthroughs in child health

SickKids Lab

SickKids leading medical breakthroughs in child health

Behind the doors of The Hospital for Sick Children’s (SickKids) state-of-the-art Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning (PGCRL), more than 2,000 researchers, trainees and staff are collaborating and conducting cutting-edge research to tackle some of the toughest challenges in child health. This past Fall, the PGCRL celebrated its fifth anniversary; five years of interdisciplinary collaboration, innovation, mentorship, discovery and scientific breakthroughs.

Standing tall at 21 stories and housing over 230 labs, the PGCRL is the largest paediatric research tower in the world. It is designed to promote interaction between research teams from seven different research Programs in order to fuel innovation and accelerate improvements in child health outcomes, both locally and globally. The facility is built to accommodate ‘research neighbourhoods’ where scientists and trainees from a variety of disciplines work side by side, generating out-of-the-box solutions.

“The way people get together to work has been incredible,” says Dr. Michael Salter, Chief of Research. “Even after five years there’s a buzz about it, which means there’s a buzz about research. Usually medical research facilities are housed in low buildings, very spread out. Here it’s so bright. It puts people in a good mood and helps fuel their creativity.”

Exterior of the SickKids Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning. (Photo: SickKids)

Since opening its doors in 2013, the PGCRL has drawn some of the world’s brightest minds and leads the way in paediatric medical breakthroughs. It may not be a coincidence then that SickKids continues to secure more Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funding than any hospital in the country. Additionally, for the past few years, SickKids has ranked among the top of RE$EARCH Infosource Inc’s list of Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals. Most notable among these rankings, SickKids has been recognized as the most research-intensive hospital in Canada.

“This building has been a crucial enabler over the past five years for Toronto and Canada in attracting and retaining world-class leaders in child health research. Over the next five years and beyond, we will continue to be a forward-looking institution, driven to discover new breakthroughs, achieve new heights and solve new problems,” says Salter.

On the outside, the PGCRL emanates excellence, innovation and grandeur, while on the inside it also gives scientific staff a greater sense of purpose, motivation and togetherness.

Interior of the SickKids Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning. (Photo: SickKids)

As noted, the Research Institute boasts seven distinct research Programs. All seven have reported major breakthroughs over the last five years. Read below for a small sampling of some of these achievements.

 Cell Biology

  • A senior scientist and his team showed that a drug commonly used to treat malaria had the potential to prevent neurodegeneration in cells from newborns affected by Zellweger syndrome, a rare genetic disease that is typically fatal within the first year of a child’s life.

Child Health Evaluative Sciences

  • Researchers are creating “Prenatal Sprinkles”, a supplement of iron and calcium encapsulated in a dissolvable coating, which will enable nutrients to be more easily absorbed in different parts of the maternal digestive tract. This will help to improve maternal and newborn health and reduce morbidity in low-income settings in Africa and South Asia.

Genetics and Genome Biology

  • Scientists from the Toronto Centre for Applied Genomics sequenced the genome of the most iconic Canadian animal species, including the beaver, the lynx and the snowshoe hare.
  • A game-changing study identified for the first time that a significant portion of all human cancers are hypermutant. Hypermutant tumours create distinct footprints that may show researchers important information about how the tumour will behave and how it will respond to treatment, leading to more proactive and targeted care.

Developmental and Stem Cell Biology

  • Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant paediatric brain cancer. A recent study showed that these cancer cells can circulate though the bloodstream when it was previously assumed that metastasis of this brain tumour was through the cerbrospinal fluid. This research can help contribute to improving diagnosis of the disease.

Molecular Medicine 

  • Molecular Medicine is home to the immunologist who first uncovered the symptoms of Roifman Syndrome, a rare congenital condition which bears his name. Later, he also discovered the genetic cause behind this disease, enabling a clear diagnosis and better treatment for children and their families.

Neurosciences and Mental Health

  • Researchers discovered that there are at least two forms of ADHD, one that is caused as a result of genetic risk and the other a result of traumatic brain injury.

Translational Medicine

  • A research team developed an ELISA test to detect antibodies to Stenotrophomonas maltophilia in the sera of cystic fibrosis patients who are susceptible to this increasingly prevalent and hard-to-treat bacterial infection.

 

SickKids is one of Ontario’s 23 research hospitals that contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter province. Look for other RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter blog or join the conversation about why health research matters for Ontario on Twitter, using the hashtag #onHWS.

RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: CAMH

Building a SMARTER Ontario: Dr. Janet Rossant’s Story

Building a SMARTER Ontario: Dr. Janet Rossant’s Story

Ontario research hospitals contribute to a smarter Ontario by attracting, training and retaining some of the world’s most highly skilled researchers that help to establish our province as a destination for discovery and research development while building our knowledge-economy. Among these researchers is Dr. Janet Rossant, who proved the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells, in collaboration with Dr. Andras Nagy, in 1993 right here in Ontario.

Continue reading “Building a SMARTER Ontario: Dr. Janet Rossant’s Story”

Research Wrap-Up: CAHO Catalyst Fall 2015

”Without health research, you can’t have clinical trials, and without clinical trials, you can’t improve the health of Ontarians.” – Gretta Hutton’s Mantle Cell Lymphoma is in remission, thanks to a clinical trial at Hamilton Health Sciences.

Research Wrap-Up: CAHO Catalyst Fall 2015

“Without health research, you can’t have clinical trials, and without clinical trials, you can’t improve the health of Ontarians.” – Patient Gretta Hutton’s Mantle Cell Lymphoma is in remission, thanks to a clinical trial at Hamilton Health Sciences. Just one of many inspiring stories in this season’s Fall Catalyst.
Continue reading “Research Wrap-Up: CAHO Catalyst Fall 2015”

Groundbreaking Health Research is Happening Here

Groundbreaking Health Research is Happening Here

Research hospitals play a leading role in Ontario’s knowledge-based economy. To demonstrate the world-class research happening right here in our province, CAHO was delighted to host Deputy Minister of Research and Innovation, Giles Gherson, and Director Allison Barr on a 3-stop Innovation Tour to research labs at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and University Health Network (UHN). Continue reading “Groundbreaking Health Research is Happening Here”

Congratulations to the Ontario Health Researchers and Clinicians Appointed to the Order of Canada

Order of Canada

Congratulations to the Ontario Health Researchers and Clinicians Appointed to the Order of Canada

On July 1st, the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, celebrated Canada’s birthday by appointing 100 of our country’s best and brightest individuals to the Order of Canada—and nine of them were from Ontario research hospitals.

Continue reading “Congratulations to the Ontario Health Researchers and Clinicians Appointed to the Order of Canada”

More Than Just Picky Eating

Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter Conference Highlights

Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter Conference Highlights

THANKS TO YOU our HWS conference was an outstanding success! Now let’s carry the momentum forward

On June 1, 2015, the Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter Campaign was launched by CAHO and its membership with a conference at MaRS Discovery District. We were thrilled by the energy, the insight and the momentum that was generated and is continuing in the virtual world.

Continue reading “Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter Conference Highlights”

Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter: A Snapshot of Ontario’s Health Research Success

Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter: A Snapshot of Ontario’s Health Research Success

CAHO’s 24 research hospitals are leaders in Ontario’s health care system, and collectively, we make Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter. Our blog series is dedicated to telling stories that showcase the research of our member hospitals across the province, but before we kick things off, we want to share a snapshot of the success we’ve contributed to so far.

Health research pays off
In 2014, CAHO member hospitals invested $1.4 billion in health research—and it paid off and then some. Every $1 dollar spent by research hospitals generated nearly $3 of economic output. The research initiatives at CAHO member hospitals have attracted the attention of industry investment, which accounted for 14% of research funding in 2014—that’s over two times the OCED average for business investment in higher education research and development. By contributing to Ontario’s health research, we have seen new economic growth in the form of jobs, new business opportunities, and marketable innovations.

How does that funding translate?
Health research funding has allowed the 16,400 researchers and staff at CAHO’s 24 member hospitals to make this province a Healthier, Wealthier, and Smarter place to live. For example, research hospitals have made Ontario healthier by discovering better cares, cures and treatments, and by decreasing the delivery time between lab bench and patient bedside to improve quality care. They’ve made Ontario wealthier by introducing 77 new health-tech products to the market in 2014, while stimulating nearly 41,000 jobs, and contributing $3.8 billion to the provincial economy. And they’ve made Ontario smarter by attracting and supporting the brightest and the best researchers and clinicians to deliver health innovations of the future to patients who need it today.