Dalhousie University: Dal students and Shannex work together to solve long‑term care challenges

To identify novel new ways to address some of the challenges facing seniors in long-term care situations, one of Atlantic Canada’s leaders in the sector has teamed up with a Dal health innovation sandbox to tap into the ideas of a younger generation.

Shannex joined with Pulse, Dalhousie’s Health Innovation Sandbox, to host a hackathon event in March that gave students from several local post-secondary institutions the opportunity to work on real-world long-term care challenges such as resident falls, social isolation, disease progression and care transitions, and responsive behaviours.

By using sample data provided by Shannex, students from Dalhousie, Nova Scotia Community College, and Mount Saint Vincent University worked in teams to develop their ideas and solutions – using expertise in areas of computer science, health, science, management, and medicine.

The teams were guided by Shannex mentors, and they worked over the course of a weekend (March 4-6) on their ideas which were presented through final pitches to a panel of long-term care judges.

Putting ideas to work
Dalhousie students Sasathorn Chanate (Kinesiology), Fabian Bong (Chemistry/Computer Science), and Darshana Saravanan (Neuroscience) won the competition for their work developing a system to help identify residents in long-term care homes who may be at a greater risk of falling.

The team’s Fall Prevention Scoring System assigns scores for various circumstances in which the risk of falling was found to be greater for some residents versus others. For instance, the system can take into account risk factors such as a dementia diagnosis or decreased activity levels to determine a score that Shannex team members can then consult to better assess resident risks and put interventions in place to help keep them safe.

Shannex is considering implementing this approach as a pilot in one of their nursing homes. They are optimistic that it will help them to improve the quality of care for their residents.

A unique learning experience
The hackathon provided an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge to solve real world problems, something they says was a unique and fulfilling experience.

“This was an extremely interesting experience for me,” said one student. “I appreciate the opportunity.”

A hallmark of a hackathon is the opportunity for students to work with those from outside of their disciplines. Another student noted that “it was a great learning experience and opportunity to collaborate with students of other disciplines”.

Pulse and Shannex are both interested in increasing innovation in healthcare and will continue to work together in the future to address various needs in long-term care.