Health Begins at Home

How can medical professionals optimize patient care outside of a healthcare setting? Without monitoring, patients often have trouble adhering to a strict regimen or schedule. But keeping patients in a clinic or hospital isn’t the answer. Instead, a team of researchers from the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, UW–Madison School of Nursing, School of Human Ecology, College of Engineering, and School of Medicine and Public Health are developing a new approach that can turn homes into healthcare environments.

Using virtual reality technology, the team will capture data and detailed images of the houses of people living with diabetes. By turning the images into an immersive 3-D environment, the team will examine trends in objects and set-ups that may enhance or inhibit a person’s ability to remember specific health treatment tasks: taking medications, checking blood sugar levels, and other monitoring practices.

Healthcare studies often look at factors such as proximity to places to exercise and grocery stores, but this is the first study to narrow the environment to the home. By digitizing objects and furniture into 3-D representations that can easily be moved and rearranged, researchers can measure and gain insight into the factors that influence a person’s ability to manage their health condition at home.

The findings will not only provide valuable information, but may also be used to inform design in the future. Virtual renderings of the team’s results will be shared free of cost via a database with open-source software, creating a widely accessible resource.