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People want to age at home, UBC Okanagan can help them stay healthy

A photo of an elderly man receiving health care in his home.

UBC Okanagan's Dr. Amir Ardestani-Jaafari used strategic approaches to research how health-care providers can create robust yet flexible home-care networks to meet future demands.

For Canadians who want to age at home as long as possible, a team of UBC Okanagan researchers is studying how to organize home-care networks to ensure they receive the care they need in the most efficient manner possible.

Led by Master of Science student Pooya Pourrezaie, a team from UBCO's Faculty of Management and School of Engineering collaborated on the study to examine how to remove some of the unknowns.

"Planning for the future is a challenge for those tasked with ensuring our health-care system can meet our needs as we age," Pourrezaie says. "Our research doesn't claim to have all the answers, but it offers a new way to think about and prepare for the future, ensuring Canadians can receive the care they need in their homes, for as long as possible."

The study focuses on a strategic model that optimizes the placement of home-based health-care facilities. This model is designed to navigate the uncertainties surrounding demand for solutions that are robust yet flexible. By balancing the need for widespread accessibility with the practicalities of health delivery, the team's work promises to help policy-makers and health-care providers make informed decisions, even when faced with limited information.

"Our findings strike a balance between the need for careful planning and the reality of fluctuating demand," Pourrezaie says. "We're showing that it's possible to plan effectively for home health care, reducing unnecessary expenditures and maximizing the impact of every dollar spent."

To reach their findings, they relied on strategic testing. They created simulations--virtual experiments--to test their ideas on how to best place home health-care facilities in locations that could benefit the most people in the most economical way feasible.

Then they'd test those networks. They used mathematical models to imagine different scenarios, including how many people might need care and where.

"It connects our academic research with real-world problems," Pourrezaie said. "It provides a starting point for more responsive and sustainable health-care planning, which we know is so important to Canadians."

This research is more than just an academic exercise; it’s a blueprint for the future of home care in Canada. As the population ages, the demand for such services can only increase. The insights from this study provide a pathway for delivering care that is both patient-focused and sustainable.

It's a reminder that with thoughtful research and innovative thinking, we can prepare for the future of health care in a way that keeps Canadians in their homes longer, healthier and happier, Pourrezaie says.

"For Canadians who value their independence, this study is a step towards ensuring that the health-care system will be there to support them, in their homes, for many years to come," he says.

Pourrezaie worked under the guidance of the Faculty of Management's Dr. Amir Ardestani-Jaafari and the School of Engineering's Dr. Babak Tosarkani.

The research appears in the journal INFOR: Information Systems and Operational Research. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada supported this research.

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