Measuring Wellness — How? Why?

Quantifying and tracking wellness in healthcare and assisted living facilities.

How do we define wellness? How can we track it?

Monitoring patients in assisted living facilities is an incredibly important process. Monitoring catch illnesses, neurodegeneration or any other degeneration conditions early, which if not caught can have much larger implications in the future.

Wellness, as opposed to sickness, is a helpful way of looking at the issue. It not just about maximising quality of life — it can catch potential issues early if tracked on a day-to-day basis.

Monitoring this ‘wellness’ turns out to be a challenging problem, however.

In May at Dublin’s Quantified Self meetup, Joan Cahill from Trinity School of Psychology, and Sean McLoughlin from Oneview healthcare spoke about the solution Oneview is putting together to address these problems to allow for better care in assisted living facilities.

What does Wellness Look Like?

Asking this question is what motivated Oneview to reach out to Trinity, and to Joan to help them answer that question.

Two main points Joan and Sean raised was:

  • Living an active life — can patients carry on day-to-day activities?
  • Holistic health — it’s not just about being healthy physically. What about mentally? Socially?

However, wellness in an assisted living facility is challenging. There are limitations of the patients, the limitations of the facility and staff and current technology.

Joan recommended the video ‘The Thin Edge of Dignity” for a close up of some of these challenges.

Measuring Wellness

The team have broken up wellness into three factors — or pillars. Each can be independently measured and recorded:

  • Biological — How did they sleep? How are they eating? Their body temperature?
  • Psychological — Are they anxious? Are they present?
  • Social — Are they withdrawn? Have their interactions changed recently?

From these three pillars, you have a definition of wellness that you can quantify.

However, it’s still complicated. Each pillar interacts with other pillars — for instance, a reduction in sleep quality can impact mood or impact sociability.

When staff are tracking wellness, they can also track other aspects of health like medication, or patient life events. Maybe the new pill a patient is being put on is causing problems for them? Maybe the reason the patient is in a low mood is due to a recent bereavement that not all hospital staff would be aware?

Once careers are measuring wellness, they can spot wellness trends, and react early if needed. Using a traffic light system makes it very clear what areas need action.

Designing for Wellness and Assisted Living

“What is the actual problem are we trying to solve?” — Sean McLoughlin

Complicating everything even further is there are multiple actors concerned with patient wellness. First, there is the patient. Then there’s also the family, the careers, the healthcare providers. Each actor has their motivation.

Tech is only there to enhance the process. Tech needs to be usable. It needs to add value.

However, with use cases like identifying potential reasons behind a reduction in patient wellness — it’s not hard to convince careers.

Conclusion

Over the evening, we got to hear about the research behind quantifying wellness, the reasons why, and a close-up of the health technology Oneview Healthcare are developing.

These new advances add massive value to the healthcare industry. It’s not about replacing health care workers; it’s about enhancing their level of care.

Wellness in assisted living facilities is maybe just the start. The technology behind this will improve all our lives — in hospitals, helping us care for elderly relatives, or even helping us with our levels of wellness.

References