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June 25, 2020 3:36 PM

Funding will help curb the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has awarded Conestoga $75,000 in funding as part of the College and Community Innovation Program - Applied Research Rapid Response to COVID-19.

By leveraging the expertise and applied research infrastructure at colleges and polytechnics, projects funded through the program will address topics of immediate relevance to the pandemic. At Conestoga, the funding will support a project aimed at promoting hand hygiene in long-term care homes to reduce COVID-19 transmission rates.

“We are grateful NSERC has invested in our project,” said Dr. Veronique Boscart, executive director of the Schlegel Centre for Advancing Seniors Care and executive dean of the School of Health & Life Sciences at Conestoga. “The rapid implementation of this project in Canadian long-term care homes has the potential to transform conventional thinking about hand hygiene compliance to prevent and mitigate COVID-19 and similar outbreaks in long-term care.”

Conestoga’s Schlegel Centre for Advancing Seniors Care has partnered with Hygienic Echo Inc., owned by Dr. Geoff Fernie of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute - University Health Network, to adapt the Buddy Badge system. The smart monitoring system detects hand hygiene opportunities and generates reminder signals, when needed, to optimize prompts for staff in long-term care to prevent the occurrence and spread of COVID-19.

According to Boscart, the Buddy Badge has been deployed in hospitals with success and has similar potential in long-term care homes to reduce infection transmission rates.

“The technology exists, but what we need to understand now are the algorithms that will be used to track hand hygiene compliance in long-term care homes,” explained Boscart. “In hospitals, patient movement is limited so you’re typically tracking a nurse going in and out of a patient’s room. In long-term care homes, there is more resident and staff movement between rooms and communal areas, so it becomes complicated. We need to understand the interactions staff have with residents, and where it happens, so that we can adjust the technology and demarcation zones for these settings.”

To understand how the Buddy Badge can be adapted for long-term care use, Boscart and team will use the simulation suites in the Cross Centre for Simulation Learning, located in the Cowan Health Sciences Centre at the Doon campus, to begin identifying patterns and interactions in long-term care homes in order map out hand hygiene requirements and opportunities. The findings will be used to update the Buddy Badge software for long-term care applications and will be piloted and tested in one long-term care home. The team will also explore longitudinal trends in COVID-19 epidemiological data to inform and contribute to infection control policies and guidelines for staff in long-term care. 

The Schlegel Centre for Advancing Seniors Care at Conestoga College works in collaboration with Schlegel Villages and the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging to develop innovative education, improve workforce development and strengthen care practices to support care for seniors and their families across Canada. It provides a hub for collaboration with partners to advance training and practice approaches and share best practices and resources to enhance seniors care and living.

For more information about the broad range of programming available through Conestoga’s School of Health & Life Sciences, visit www.conestoga.ca/health.

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