Towards Effortless Use of Information Technology in Home Healthcare with a Networked Digital Pen

Abstract: When care is moved from the hospital to the home the demands for high quality care still remain. For problems arising from the geographical separation of patients and professional caregivers, information and communication technology may offer important solutions. The overall aim of this thesis was to describe relevant requirements, to design and implement an IT-based system, and finally to evaluate the system’s influence on symptom control and support for both patients/next-of-kin and professional caregivers in advanced home healthcare. Of importance were needs in basic as well as advanced home healthcare, as were usability perspectives of both patients and professional caregivers. Requirement areas such as security, mobility, and responsibility, which should be considered when monitoring patients in the home, were identified. A prototype system for everyday assistance for diabetes patients was designed, and a system for frequent pain assessment for palliative home healthcare patients using a pain diary, digital pen and mobile Internet technology, was developed and evaluated through a qualitative content analysis approach. Twelve palliative cancer patients and six professional caregivers participated. The data collected included an ease-of-use questionnaire, and interviews with patients, spouses and professional caregivers. Patients expressed increased and improved contact with the caregivers, increased participation in their own care, a sense of increased security, and easiness in using the equipment in spite of severe illness and difficulties in comprehending the technology and system intervention. The professional caregivers showed a shifting outlook towards the pain assessment method; an initial cautious outlook due to low expectations of the patients’ abilities to use the pain assessment method and the caregivers’ own reluctance to use the system and change their way-of-working. Despite this, the professional caregivers experienced positive outcomes in terms of an increased awareness of pain, and positive patient influences including increased participation in their care, increased security and improved changes in pain treatment as a response to reported pain assessments. In conclusion, the networked digital pen system provided an effortless method for pain assessment and had positive influences on the care. The results imply that digital pen technology is suitable for the assessment of symptoms by palliative patients since these patients often have a limited capacity to handle technology due to their state of health.