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Associate professor Jean Anthony, PhD, explains to Maple Knoll residents Marge Fanella & Mary Davis how technology and health care merge at pilot "smart" house at Maple Knoll.

Associate professor Jean Anthony, PhD, explains to Maple Knoll residents Marge Fanella & Mary Davis how technology and health care merge at pilot "smart" house at Maple Knoll.
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Publish Date: 10/28/15
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Nursing, Engineering Students Improve Lives at Maple Knoll Village

CINCINNATIIt started with one "smart” idea. 

The longstanding relationship between University of Cincinnati’s College of Nursing and Maple Knoll Village, a continuing care retirement community in Springdale, Ohio, dates back three decades. But in 2012, the partnership — which now also includes UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, College of Medicine and College of Allied Health Sciences — reached a new level of innovation when Debi Sampsel, DNP, RN, the College of Nursing’s chief officer of innovation and entrepreneurship, and students began work on a "Smart House” at Maple Knoll designed to help residents remotely control and interact with their living environment. 

For Gaurav Patil, now a PhD student in engineering, the project presented an opportunity to address a real-world issue—helping aging retirees stay in their own homes longer. 

"As an engineer, it was a great opportunity for me to test how the technology developed in our labs works in the real world and has substantially changed the perspective with which I approach any research problem,” Patil said. "It’s also been a rewarding experience working on the project at Maple Knoll and collaborating with Dr. Sampsel.” 

The Smart House and Patil’s experience, represents just one example of both the cutting-edge technology and collaborative teamwork that the UC/Maple Knoll partnership offers students interested in helping to improve the lives of residents. On Oct. 30, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Maple Knoll and UC will host a technology showcase at the retirement community, during which the public can learn firsthand from faculty members and students about a number of current projects in addition to the Smart House, including:

•Flo-bot, a large remote-presence robot
•T-Chat, a therapeutic communication robot
•Fall detection equipment using a Kinect sensor
•Cost-effective environmental activity sensors
•A robotic, wearable exoskeleton that helps patients to sit and stand

Manish Kumar, PhD, associate professor of engineering, said that each of the projects on display offer invaluable opportunities for students from both colleges. "It’s something where they learn about real-world problems and develop techniques to address them directly,” Kumar said. "We’re not working in our own ivory tower on research that might not get published; we’re developing things that can change lives.” 

Sampsel agrees that the partnership provides major benefits for students to put theory into practice and work collaboratively — but also that the Maple Knoll setting adds yet another dimension to the work. 

"This relationship offers fabulous opportunities to do inter-professional education and provide practical, hands-on experiences that impact people's lives,” Sampsel said. "But in addition, the wisdom that Maple Knoll residents impart to our students — you cannot get that on campus or in a book. You have to be there. Students have so many ‘aha’ moments when they see the energetic lives of these older adults.” 

One former student who experienced such a moment was Stephanie Garbo, a nursing graduate who helped introduce the portable telehealth communications robot (V-Go) to Maple Knoll residents. The robot lets health professionals treat patients remotely, replicating their physical presence through sound, video and motion. The experience not only gave her a newfound interest in telehealth, but also helped shape the direction of her career. 

"I learned to keep an open mind about the new technology and how to apply it to my field of mental health,” said Garbo, who now works at the Cincinnati Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "After working with the Maple Knoll residents, I also realized that I was interested in geriatric care, so I became involved with the geri-psych team on my unit.” 

College of Engineering and Applied Science and College of Nursing students are again working together on senior capstone projects this fall. One project challenge that the Maple Knoll nursing staff brought to the UC students was the need to eliminate or reduce body pain by innovating the way medication and treatment carts are constructed. Ten students will be studying existing research on other occupational health inventions and solutions. Designs then will be created providing a solution to the medication carts, which are bulky with immobile height settings. 

"Both the engineering and nursing students are looking forward to working on this real-life work environment project. They will bring their respective educational views to the collaborative team effort,” said Sampsel.

In the spring, their solution will debut at a university-wide capstone project review.

In all, the partnership represents a unique opportunity for all parties — and continues to place UC and Maple Knoll at the forefront of telehealth and health-care technology that makes real differences in real lives. 

"We are thrilled to see this kind of technology and partnership occurring at Maple Knoll Village,” said Jim Formal, Maple Knoll president and CEO. "Our mission has always been to provide exceptional care for older adults in the community, and with the help of UC, we can be a part of groundbreaking technology that will do just that.”

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