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Summer students trial wearable fitness technology in surgical ward and assess satisfaction with mental health crisis service

Christchurch campus

Friday 29 January 2016 11:39am

Trialling whether data from a wearable sports monitor could predict a patient's decline and assessing a new crisis mental health service were two of the research projects tackled by this year’s University of Otago, Christchurch’s Summer Students.

The annual mentoring programme allows young scientists to get experience working on health-related projects for 10 weeks between early November and January. They are supervised by some of the country’s leading researchers and clinicians.

Following is information about four of the projects. A full list is available here.

Early detection of deteriorating patients using wearable fitness technology

Medical student Fraser Jeffery and his supervisor intensive care specialist Professor Geoff Shaw fitted wearable sports heart rate monitors to the chests of patients recovering in the Surgical Progressive Care Unit in Christchurch Hospital. They studied heart rate variability data to see if there was a connection between ongoing heart rate variability and a deterioration of the patient’s condition.

Professor Shaw says early results from the small-scale, preliminary study (less than a dozen patients were involved) showed heart rate variability recovers quickly in patients who are progressing well. However an improvement in variability was not clearly seen in sicker patients with more complex conditions.

Professor Shaw says leveraging technology developed for the sports industry could provide an inexpensive way to improve patient care. He hopes to extend this preliminary work to larger groups of hospitalised patients.

The project was sponsored by the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women.

Satisfaction with the CDHB’s new Crisis Resolution Service

Needing urgent psychiatric care is typically a stressful situation for individuals, their families and often for those, such as GPs, who refer them to Specialist Mental Health Services. At the end of 2014 the Canterbury District Health Board introduced the Crisis Resolution Service, which provided a new way of delivering care to people with urgent mental health needs.

This service aims to provide care that is more accessible and better integrated with other support. One example of a change is that where feasible consumers can be seen in their own homes.

Summer Student Maddie Weston evaluated the satisfaction of patients, their families and referrers such as GPs with the service. A novel aspect of Maddie’s evaluation was that families and referrers were asked how they found the service.

The majority of people (88 per cent of the 113 people that took part) were satisfied with their care and would recommend the service. Participants who were dissatisfied were more likely to be family members, which highlights the importance of asking their opinion.

More than 80% of people using the service responded positively to questions addressing how easy it had been to access help, how quickly they received help, whether they were asked if they wanted family involved, how straightforward the assessment process had been, and if their needs had been met.

The survey gathered suggestions about how the service could be improved, with better publicity of the service and more options for people who were both intoxicated and requiring crisis care raised. The Specialist Mental Health Service will develop and incorporate some of these suggestions into its services where possible.

Maddie was supervised by Dr Frances Carter and the project was sponsored by the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation.

GPs positive about telephone-based intervention for smoking cessation

In May 2015, Pegasus Health began a telephone-based brief intervention service where enrolled patients, known to be smokers, are called and offered cessation advice.

Summer student Anna Hulme measured how satisfied general practice teams involved with the programme were, and whether it was helping more people attempt to stop smoking. She found the majority of general practice teams were either satisfied or extremely satisfied, with 91% of survey respondents saying they would recommend the service to their colleagues.

More than 13,000 people were contacted by the service and offered brief advice, with 1,800 referred on to a cessation support service. General practices who engaged with the service were more likely to have increased in-house smoking cessation support to patients compared to those not involved with the telephone service. General practice staff surveyed were generally supportive of extending the service to include routine re-calls such as cervical screening.

Anna was supervised by Leigh Aston and Dr Ruth Savage. The project was sponsored by Pegasus Health.

Measuring a ‘good death’

The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) has developed a tool to record and analyse aspects of care received by people in their final days. The tool, thought to be the first of its kind in New Zealand, focuses on aspects of care that have been identified in scientific literature as being important, including good symptom control, identification of cultural and spiritual needs and family involvement and support. The goal is to ultimately apply the audit to all deaths within the CDHB and identify services or wards where patients and families are looked after particularly well so others can learn from their success.

Summer student Claire Whitehead assessed the tool’s ability to determine a ‘good death’ by reviewing the notes of more than 130 deceased people, about 100 in hospital and the remaining in hospice or aged care. Claire found the tool worked well at measuring the quality of a person’s death, and developed a user guide so non-medically trained people can use it to do assessments.

Claire was supervised by Dr Kate Grundy. The project was sponsored by the Canterbury District Health Board.

For further information, contact:

Kim Thomas
Communications Manager
University of Otago, Christchurch
Mob 027 222 6016
Email kim.thomas@otago.ac.nz

Note: All project results will be posted on the University of Otago, Christchurch website at the end of February. To find out about particular projects before then contact Kim Thomas.

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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