Engaging Canada’s Older adults in health TECHnology innovation ecosystems: The ECOTECH Project
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Background: Technological innovation offers many opportunities and challenges to support the health and well-being of older adults. Increasingly, the value of developing regional infrastructure that supports and drives innovation in local clusters is recognized. This innovation typically arises from collaboration among researchers, government and industry (Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000). Application of this collaborative framework is emerging in the health sector in the context of innovation to support an aging population. Current trends towards transparency, citizen empowerment and the democratization of health support the need to understand the engagement of end users (specifically older adults and their caregivers) in the development of community infrastructure that supports innovation in health. The Engaging Canada’s Older adults in health TECHnology innovation ecosystems: ECOTECH Project aims to expand our understanding of how older adults and their caregivers might have greater involvement in the regional innovation ecosystems that may support development of new health and aging-related technologies and other innovations. Methods: This project consisted of a three phase integrated mixed methods study with a focus on knowledge exchange throughout. Phase I was a scoping review of the available literature on Regional Innovation Ecosystems (RIEs) to inform hypothesized modifications to current collaborative models of innovation and learn from initiatives outside of health that currently incorporate end user engagement. Phase II included interviews and focus groups with stakeholders including older adults and representatives from university, government, and industry to explore current practices in Canada for engaging end users in health innovation and explore opportunities for participation in Regional Health Innovation Ecosystems (RHIEs). Informed by these results, Phase III was a Concept Mapping exercise following the methodology of Kane and Trochim (2007). Data were collected through and analyzed using the Concept System software (2015). Multivariate statistical techniques (multidimensional scaling and cluster analysis) were applied to create a framework of priorities. Results: Although the literature revealed that there are a variety of roles that end users currently take on in RIEs, little discussion was available on the role that vulnerable populations play. These findings informed the interview phase which revealed an interest and readiness in some engagement of older adults and their caregivers in RHIEs. Enhancing their involvement will require a recognition of the need for diversity of older adult and caregiver representation, consideration of barriers such as system constraints and traditional partnerships, and recognition of multiple roles that older adults could play in health innovation. A seven cluster framework of priorities has emerged with specific actions to be taken to engage older adults and their caregivers in RHIEs. Conclusions and next steps: Greater involvement of older adults and caregivers in health and aging innovation can result in new technologies and processes that are more likely to meet their needs and preferences. This study identified directions and strategies for their enhanced involvement in regional ecosystems for innovation. Continued collaboration with stakeholders will allow the results of this study to be used in developing RHIEs in Canada. The next steps of this work will involve implementation of the framework of priorities in Canadian RHIEs. This evolution of current collaborations will support the development and appropriate adoption of health and aging technologies and innovations that have the potential to improve the health and well-being of older adults and their caregivers.
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Heather McNeil (2017). Engaging Canada’s Older adults in health TECHnology innovation ecosystems: The ECOTECH Project. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/11814