Triggering memories on your smartphone

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How technology is helping patients with memory loss

A new app to combat memory loss

One of the highlights of the 2015 eHealth Conference in Toronto was the Hacking Health Design Challenge.

Hacking Health aims to improve health care by inviting technology creators and health care professionals to collaborate on realistic, human-centred solutions to front-line problems.

Culminating in a hackathon sprint to the finish, teams raced to put together a view of how tomorrow’s technology can potentially address today’s health issues.

As a presenting partner for eHealth, the Canadian Institute for Health Information was privileged to sponsor the Health System Management award that went to the team behind Trigger.

Created by Dr. Eva Svoboda and Ken Leung of Baycrest Health Sciences, with prototype development from The Jonah Group, Trigger is a prosthetic memory app that enables individuals with memory difficulties to relive the past on a smartphone.

“The inability to recall past events is one of the top complaints we hear from our patients with memory impairment,” Dr. Svoboda said. “Trigger captures this capability for those who can’t.”

How does it work?

If you tag a memory at a certain place, such as a restaurant, that memory can be browsed and activated in a variety of ways. The app is designed to mimic the retrieval of and spontaneous triggering of memories that healthy people take for granted.

“We are proud to have delivered a prototype within 8 weeks that runs on both iOS and Android mobile devices,” said The Jonah Group’s Matthew Solo. “Eva brought the idea and real end users, and we contributed the technical knowledge. It was a passion project for us and has been a great partnership from the get-go.”

“We came together so quickly. Hacking Health and our partnership with The Jonah Group enabled us to fast-track an interesting concept to a tangible working prototype within a few weeks,” said Dr. Svoboda. “The prototype was enthusiastically received by our end users — patients with memory impairment at the Memory Link program at Baycrest. When you consider how popular wearable technology is today, Trigger could offer another entirely new level of integration. The person wearing this assistive technology will not stand out from the crowd but fit right in without feeling self-conscious.”

As for what the future holds, the team behind Trigger is working to test the app further with patients who have memory challenges and decide how to potentially bring it to market.