Nursing home, college create ‘smart house’ of technology

By Hannah Poturalski


A research effort underway at an area nursing home is testing out telehealth robots and other technology to enhance a patient’s ability to remain independent longer.

Students and faculty from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Nursing, as well as students from the colleges of medicine, engineering and allied health sciences, have partnered with Maple Knoll Village to develop innovative models using technology to help older adults stay independent and in their homes longer, said Tim McGowan, vice president of operations at Maple Knoll.

“The quicker we can develop the technology necessary to safely monitor them at home, the lower the cost of care will be and the quality of life for the patient returning home will improve,” McGowan said.

Every month more than a quarter-million Americans turn age 65. By 2015, for the first time in U.S. history, people age 65 and older will outnumber children under age five, according to the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio.

The partnership has opened a “smart house” on the Maple Knoll campus, formally called the Innovation Collaboratory House, inside an independent living unit for the UC students to conduct research and pilot new technologies.

Debi Sampsel, chief officer of innovation and entrepreneurship at UC, said the partnership developed in October 2012, and the smart house opened last spring for senior capstone classes in nursing and engineering.

Now hundreds of students are using the facility for education, research and translational practice.

“The house is about preparing them to come out into the community and hone in on their skills and techniques they’ll need in real positions,” Sampsel said. “We can start mirroring real life because they have to start thinking on their feet.”

A number of student-led projects are underway at the house, including the ability to control the temperature and lighting from a remote location, and motion detectors used to track patterns of activity in daily living to detect when an unexpected change in habit has occurred, said Megan Gresham, spokeswoman for Maple Knoll.

“Staff or family can be alerted if say they’re not getting out of bed at a certain time,” Gresham said.

Sampsel said students are also training on human simulators — with speech and movements controlled by a teacher in the next room — to learn the proper ways to take an IV, bathe a patient, take blood pressure and listen to the heart and lungs.

“This fits into our strategic plan to creatively leverage technology to change health care,” said Greer Glazer, dean of UC’s College of nursing.

After a public open house June 26, the UC students will start working with physicians on geriatric rounds at Maple Knoll. A large telehealth robot, called “Flo Bot,” will go along on the rounds and nurse practitioner students and college of medicine fellows will access the data remotely from UC.

A smaller telehealth system coined “Little Bot” will be used by students making rounds inside the independent living units of resident who have volunteered.

“I’m most appreciative for the resident support at Maple Knoll,” Sampsel said. “It really brings home what their (the students’) health care profession is going to be all about.”

Sampsel said the two entities are developing a formal agreement to be reached this summer.



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