Pair of teams selected to participate in the inaugural KITE-TRI Clinical Research Partnership Competition

Selected teams receive up to $7,500 in funding to complete their project.

The KITE Research Institute and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (TRI) have announced the winners of the inaugural Clinical Research Partnership Competition.

Teams consisting of at least one clinician at TRI and one KITE scientist were invited to submit proposals for the competition, which supports clinical research projects that aim to improve patient outcomes with the winning teams receiving up to $7,500 in funding to complete their project within one year.

“The goal of this competition is to discover new innovations in patient care and strengthen the collaboration and partnership between front-line clinical teams and KITE researchers,” said KITE Director Milos R. Popovic.

Teams led by KITE senior scientist Dr. Kathy McGilton and TRI nurse practitioner Dr. Shirin Vellani and and KITE scientist Dr. Andrea Iaboni and TRI occupational therapist Emily MacPherson were chosen to pursue their projects from a pool of more than 20 total submissions. The winners were chosen by a panel of experts from KITE and TRI.

Dr. McGilton and Dr. Vellani’s project seeks to provide tablets with speech translation apps to non-English speaking inpatients at TRI in order to assist them with communicating with staff and vice versa.

“Lydia Yeung, our research associate, came up with this idea while being redeployed on a unit during COVID 19,” said Dr. Vellani who is a member of the Virtual Behavioural Medicine Program at TRI as well as KITE’s Enhancing the Care of the Older Adult (EnCOAR) team.

“She realized translation devices could improve communication between patients and staff, which would not only enhance the patient experience, but also help to make staffs’ work more efficient.”

The research team will speak to staff and patients to understand their needs, current language barriers, and provide assistance and training on how to use the tablet.

Afterwards, the team will conduct surveys with non-English speaking patients and hold a focus group with staff to evaluate progress. Changes to the project will be implemented based on feedback.

“The results of this work may lead to more non-English speaking participants recruited for research subject participating in studies conducted at TRI,” said Dr. McGilton who is a lead scientist at KITE’s EnCOAR team and a Professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Nursing

“Currently, many studies exclude non-English speaking patients due to communication barriers.” 

Dr. Iaboni and MacPherson’s project will investigate whether using soft lighting, soothing sounds and familiar views in TRI’s Specialized Dementia Unit (SDU) can improve patient’s movements, behaviours, and circadian rhythms. 

The SDU is an in-patient unit where an inter-professional group of clinicians and nursing staff address responsive behaviours in people with dementia.

Responsive behaviours is a term commonly used to refer to actions, words or gestures presented by a person living with dementia as an expression of an unmet need (pain, hunger, stress) and response to a stimulus in their environment (overstimulation).

“By incorporating these approaches into our unit, we aim to improve quality of life for our patients, decrease responsive behaviours, and facilitate a calm and comfortable environment that enables enhanced care of our patients,” said MacPherson who is an occupational therapist and behaviour lead in the SDU. 

“We are anticipating that this project will increase our patients' overall sense of safety, comfort and familiarity and will result in a decrease in sleep disturbances and responsive behaviours.”

Their team will utilize the factors previously listed as well as home furniture to create a welcoming space in the SDU. They will use data from real-time-location technology to measure patient movement patterns before and after the creation of this space. 

They will also monitor patient behavior and metrics related to the circadian rhythm during this period.

“This is a great opportunity for my research team to apply their expertise in using sensors to measure behaviours and sleep to the evaluation an environmental design intervention on this unit," said Dr. Iaboni the Medical Lead of the Specialized Dementia Unit at TRI and associate professor at the University of Toronto’s department of Psychiatry.

“The results of this study will help us know whether we should be investing in these types of design changes in dementia care environments.”