McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

FHS showcases research achievements of rising stars

By Laura Thompson
Published: May 9, 2011
FHS Research Plenary 2011
FHS Research Plenary 2010

Alison Fenney knows we (or perhaps that should be Wii) have a lot to learn about the role video games can play in engaging people with dementia.

The McMaster University PhD candidate in neuroscience studied the capacity of patients with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia to learn new physical tasks. Using the Nintendo Wii bowling game, Fenney completed a nine-week training session with three patients with dementia who served as case studies. Five months later, the participants received a follow-up retention test.

"We saw that they not only learned and progressed in the nine-week training period, they remembered after a five-month break how to play the game," said Fenney, who is jointly working towards an MBA in health service management.

But the most surprising finding was the impact the game had on the participants' level of engagement.

"It's one thing to know people can do something, but it's another thing when it actually means something in their lives," she said.

Fenney will present her findings as part of the 2011 Faculty Health Sciences (FHS) Research Plenary, which runs Tuesday, May 10 through Thursday, May 12 at McMaster University. The event celebrates the research achievements of graduate students in programs affiliated with FHS and FHS post-doctoral fellows.

"McMaster University is regarded as one of the top research-intensive universities in the world, and our health sciences graduate programs and post-doctoral training opportunities are key components of this strength — together, they offer excellent training and experiences in health-related research fields that launch careers," said Cathy Hayward, associate dean of graduate studies, health sciences.

"The Health Sciences Research Plenary is a prime opportunity for the Faculty to showcase and recognize the achievements of our graduate students and post-doctoral fellows and their capacity for research excellence. The breadth of health sciences research at McMaster University that will be presented is extraordinary, ranging from important work on molecules, cells, organs, mechanisms of diseases, to clinically-focused studies on a variety of topics from issues in disease management, global health and health services."

Margaret Leyland, who graduated in November as part of the first cohort of the M.Sc. in eHealth program, will present her research on using a unique patient-centred approach to designing electronic personal health records (ePHRs) for diabetes self-management.

Leyland used adaptive choice-based conjoint analysis, typically a market research technique, to examine patient preferences for the attributes of ePHRs. Her sample of 150 adults with prediabetes, Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes preferred Internet-based ePHRs supplied by a physician or specialist. They also preferred to exchange health information with their physician or nurse once a month. Monthly service fees were considered the most important attribute of the ePHRs.

"Of course most people want a free ePHR, but when we ran our preference data through simulations based on real ePHRs we were able to show that people are actually willing to pay for it," Leyland said, adding that $11.45 per month was considered an acceptable level of payment among the group. "Diabetes is becoming a huge economic burden and our challenge in the e-health world is to help reduce this burden by designing and delivering health-care services that are safe, meaningful and sustainable. We've shown that an ePHR service based on patient preferences has some utility and that patients see the value in that."

Poster sessions for the FHS Research Plenary will take place in the Jan and Mien Heersink Reading Pavilion in the Health Sciences Library, from May 10-12. Oral sessions will be held May 10 at the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery.

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