LONDON, ONT. -- A research team from Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ont. has released its findings into the use of smart technologies at home to help care for those suffering from severe mental illness.

The team created their Smart Homes solution to be tested first at St. Joseph’s Health Care in London and then in affordable housing units within the community.

“We have strong initial evidence showing that technology and applications embedded in the lived environment are safe, secure and appropriate for use in health care,” said Dr. Cheryl Forchuk, with Lawson and project lead for Smart Home Community Model Phase.

There were 13 participants representing a range of living situations including apartments, group homes, or family homes.

“More and more, smart technologies like phone applications or virtual care are being used for mental health care. A smart home solution like the one we have tested could be considered a higher dose of technology, offered to clients with higher needs. The right dose for one may not work for another – the technological solutions used should vary depending on the individual,” said Forchuk in a release.

The participants also represented a range of various mood, anxiety and psychotic disorders, with some suffering from chronic pain.

They each selected from a wide range of tools to meet their individual needs.

Participants were given access to automated medication dispensers and smart health monitoring devices for tracking heart rate, activity and sleep.

The data collected is viewable by both the client and their health care provider.

The study suggests that this allows for earlier intervention and identification of potential issues.

Results from the study show that visits to a health or social service provider and the emergency department decreased, as did home visits.

Roughly 80 per cent of the participants felt their overall health had improved.

“In a large-scale rollout, this model could improve well-being and empower persons to better manage their care,” says Nedrita Shemshedini with the Canadian Mental Health Association Elgin-Middlesex.

The team behind the study hopes to see the results inform the use of smart technology in mental health care and delivery.