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New app holds promise for stroke survivors

Sep 23, 2016

A $250,000 philanthropic gift from the Max Bell Foundation will allow researchers to test a new app designed to improve team-based care for  stroke survivors and their family caregivers living at home in the community.

Home and community-based teams caring for stroke survivors are excited about a new computer application, My Stroke Team (MyST). MyST promises to make it easier for those involved in a stroke patient’s care to communicate with each other and with patients and their caregivers.  This app will help to improve coordination of care for stroke survivors and their families living at home in the community.

Background on MyST

Researchers from McMaster University’s Aging, Community and Health Research Unit developed the app in 2014-15 with the help of a grant from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The app was co-designed with home and community care providers to ensure that it addressed key gaps in the delivery of home and community care to this population. The researchers now plan to test MyST in a home care setting.  This pilot study, which will be led by Drs. Markle-Reid and Valaitis, will involve 40 stroke survivors living in the Hamilton area, thanks to a $250,000 gift from the Max Bell Foundation and CIHR. The study will be completed by March 2019.

The app grew out of a larger research project, says Markle-Reid. “We are conducting a study looking at an interprofessional team approach to stroke rehab in home without the app, where we are using paper-based communication. With this new study funded by the Max Bell Foundation and CIHR, we will look at the same intervention – but we will be using MyST to support the care provided.”

How people will use MYST

When patients leave the hospital after a stroke, they may need many different services – a home care coordinator, a nurse, an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist, and a personal support worker. But there are often gaps in communication among these members of the healthcare team and between the home care team and patients and caregivers.

For example, personal support workers are in the home frequently and spend more time with the patient than almost anyone else – but they have reported feeling left out of the loop when it comes to working with other members of the team.

MyST will provide a platform for communication among the team. Working on a tablet, personal support workers will record what they observed during the visit. The app will help to guide assessment and management of care of the stroke survivor for all team members. This information will be available to everyone on the home care team.

Researchers designed the app to be patient-focused, and to encourage team members to work together on the patient’s plan of care. “The patient identifies his or her goals working with one or more members of the interprofessional team,” says Valaitis. “They will record those goals in the app where everybody sees them, and the team can then all help to support the patient to attain those goals. Example of goals might be walking across the street to pick up the mail or developing a stronger relationship with their family. The pilot study will also focus on learning more about how the app could be helpful to patients and family caregivers. We are delighted that the Max Bell Foundation has provided this funding – to put more emphasis on that aspect.”

Challenges and opportunities

The funds will also help address other technical needs as they arise. “Let’s say we want to get our patients and caregivers online. How do we authenticate these patients and their caregivers to ensure confidentiality? These details have to be worked through. You have to have experts to help in setting up those systems,” says Valaitis.

Researchers are already delving into “how to get an app like this implemented in a real healthcare agency and what that entails,” Valaitis adds. The study will be useful as Canadians continue to expect more from technology to improve patient care.  


Read more about the grant on the McMaster Daily News.

Contact information:

Maureen Markle-Reid, RN, MScN, PhD
Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, School of Nursing
Scientific Director, Aging, Community and Health Research Unit
McMaster University
HSC 3N25B 1280 Main Street W
Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1

Ruta Valaitis, RN, PhD
Associate Professor and Dorothy C. Hall Chair in Primary Health Care Nursing, School of Nursing
Deputy Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Primary Care and Health Human Resources
Scientific Co-Director, Aging, Community and Health Research Unit
HSC 3N25E 1280 Main Street W.
McMaster University
Hamilton ON L8S4K1

Please visit the Aging Community and Health Research Unit to learn more.


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