A young woman pushses her father in a wheelchair while he's holding a basketball

CTSI awards funding to UMN innovations that focus on the unique role of caregivers

Through a targeted funding opportunity, the CTSI’s Office of Discovery and Translation (ODAT) has selected four UMN projects to receive funding and guidance. Each project will be supported by a cross-disciplinary team, led by ODAT, to advance development of the innovations over the one-year funding period. Supporting innovations to benefit caregivers builds on ODAT’s commitment to translate UMN research discoveries to improve human health. Since 2012, ODAT has supported over 100 technologies with nearly $10M funding. Fourteen ODAT-funded technologies have been licensed, including seven to UMN start-ups. Two technologies have reached patient access.

The 2019 Translational Grant Program supports the development of new products or services that improve the experience of unpaid caregivers, and positively impact patient health. Family and other unpaid/informal caregivers play a critical role in the delivery of healthcare that is often invisible to the healthcare system. They ensure that a patient’s basic and medical needs are met and are the interface between medical care providers and the patient. The demands of this role take a toll not only on caregivers emotionally, physically and financially, but also economically, with services provided by unpaid caregivers valued at $500 billion in 2017. Informal caregiving presents unique challenges and opportunities for technology innovation to improve the health of the caregiver and the patient.

The projects selected for funding address the following caregiver needs:

Just One Thing: Custom Care Plans for Caregivers
A tool that can provide simple, custom care plans for caregivers to promote at-home therapy adherence.
Project team: John Ferguson, PhD; Adriana Seelye, PhD; Tonya Rich, PhD, OT; Logan Cates, MA CCC-SLP; Don MacLennan, MA, CCC - UMN Medical School, Rehabilitation Medicine and Minneapolis VA Health Care System

Caregiver Assistive Wheelchair Control
To ease the physical burden associated with pushing a wheelchair, particularly uphill or on rough terrain.
PI: Gary Goldish, MD. UMN Medical School, Rehabilitation Medicine and Minneapolis VA Health Care System

Extending an eHealth Enhanced Care Approach: Development of Nurse-Guided Patient Engagement Content to Support Human Milk Feeding for Infants with Complex Congenital Heart Disease
To address particular challenges faced by care providers in providing human milk feeding for infants born with complex heart conditions.
PI: Anne McKechnie, RN, PhD. UMN School of Nursing, Nursing-Child and Family Cooperative.

Bridging barriers to intervention access: Caregiver-delivered communication intervention
A telehealth platform to coach caregivers of children with autism and related neurodevelopmental disabilities, as well as to service providers in the community.
PIs: Jessica Simacek, PhD, Education and Human Development and Adele Dimian, PhD, Education Sciences, Institute on Community Integration

Recognizing that often caregivers are the first to recognize unmet needs, ODAT has a submission portal for unmet needs related to pediatric health that may be improved by the innovation of a new product or service. Descriptions of pediatric unmet health needs can be submitted by caregivers at any time via the Community Discovery Program.