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Top Tips for a Successful Start with Wearable Technology

This post was written by the ever-wonderful Kayla Wratschko from the Community Living Association for South Simcoe! As one of our first pilot partners, Kayla is an expert at implementing our technology in an organizational setting. Kayla is who we point people to when they’re wondering about the experience of using our technology at an organization. In this post, she answers the most common questions she gets and her top tips for success.

Hi, I am Kayla Wratschko from the Community Living Association for South

Simcoe, or CLASS for short. If you know me, you know I am incredibly enthusiastic about data, technology and all the power it has to make our lives better! Working with Awake Labs has been an example of just that. I am writing this blog to share what I’ve learned so other organizations and people like you can better understand how it works and how to succeed with it.

How did you find out about Awake Labs?

A colleague of mine found out about Awake Labs at a conference and brought it back to me because she knows I love data and technology. We reached out to Andrea and Paul, and the rest is history!

How does the technology work?

There are three parts to the technology, a smartwatch, an iPod, and a computer dashboard.

  • The person being supported wears the smartwatch. There are a lot of different bands available to accommodate sensory issues. At CLASS, we’ve bought six different styles of bands.

  • Staff carry an iPod. And yes, I know what you’re thinking, iPods do still exist! These iPods look a lot like iPhones and work the same. Each iPod is connected to an individual watch, and we have staff wear an 80s-style pager belt clip so that the iPods are on their person at all times.

  • Notifications are sent to the iPod when strong emotions and stress arise. Staff then can reply to these notifications using the app on the iPod. They can provide context about what’s going on and look at trends within the past hour or a couple of days.

  • The dashboard is for clinicians and care managers. They can log in and see all the data the watch and iPod collect and observe patterns, and make suggestions for how to improve care plans.

Where does it work?

The smartwatch and app work as long as you are within Wi-Fi range. Right now, it doesn’t work out and about in the community, unless you are connected to your phone’s hotspot. However, the watches do store data and you can review it when you get home. You just won’t be notified if there are rises in strong emotions while you are out of Wi-Fi.

What happens if the app isn’t working or I need tech support?

There is in-app support, and Awake Labs are super responsive! You can send them a message, and they’ll respond and help you navigate any issues that have come up. It has been a very valuable asset.

Are the watches durable?

The watches are quite durable. We have had watches intentionally damaged by the person wearing them. In this case, it was after years of wearing the watch. Generally, the durability of the watches has not been an issue.

How are you using the data you’re collecting?

We’ve been using the data with our staff to provide feedback and change behaviour support plans. We compare it to the incident reports and pull out the time frame of the incident from the app. We look at when the incident started, for cues, key decisions and when the PRN was administered. We’ve noticed there are certain times of day that can cause stress for the people we support. For example, shift change at 3 pm can be a challenging time of day. It can be louder and can cause disruption. We’ve made some changes to accommodate this.

What outcomes have you seen for the people you support?

Staff have been able to use this tool to feel safe supporting people who can escalate quickly and need quick and early intervention. We have seen staff become more confident and better at recognizing and responding to behaviours that indicate possible anxiety and increased risk for escalation. We’ve seen fewer escalations in the people we support due to more skill-building around emotional regulation/problem-solving. This has meant fewer staff injuries, decreased reactive PRN use, etc.

We can also better measure the effectiveness of interventions. We are now able to identify differences in challenging behaviour that on the surface looks the same, but represents true anxiety or agitation under some circumstances and attention-seeking behaviour under others. This has helped up adjust support plans to better address the needs of the people we support.

Kayla’s Top Tips for a Successful Start with Awake Labs

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that staff interest and engagement are crucial to the success of this technology. I’ve learned a few things piloting this and onboarding new users and teams. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Invite all team members to the initial launch

  • Highlight the value to staff. Tell staff how it can keep them safer, improve their confidence and make their job more enjoyable. This helps a lot with keeping staff engaged with the technology.

  • Set expectations with your staff. In my experience, it takes about a month to start making sense of the data the app collects and for the person being supported to get used to it. Make sure your team is prepared to be patient and ready to join you on this journey!

  • Pick a person to be your Awake Labs tech point person within your organization. That way, everyone knows who they can go to when any questions or issues arise that your organization needs to address.

  • Have staff look at the summary graphs after coming back from an outing or just starting a shift. That way, they can quickly get a sense of what’s been going on for the person they support and support them accordingly.

Overall, I am a huge fan of the technology and the company. They have been fantastic to work with. I truly believe it has changed the lives of the people that have been using the technology. I would be happy to answer any questions you have! If you’re another agency wanting to get in touch about using Awake Labs technology, feel free to reach out to me at:

About Community Living Association for South Simcoe

CLASS is a non-profit, charitable organization governed by a volunteer Board of Directors who supports people with an intellectual disability to choose and lead dignified lives within the community.

We support roughly 400 people in residential, supported independent living, day, and social innovation programs that provide support, employment opportunities, and community connections.

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