Telehomecare program aims to reduce emergency room volumes

By Chad Ingram

Nov. 22 2016

A new program from the Central East Community Care Access Centre is aiming to mitigate traffic at emergency rooms through a telehomecare program that allows patients with heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to practise self-monitoring and connect with practitioners from home.

Cathy Slevin engagement lead manager for the CCAC’s telehomecare program says the program’s intent is two-fold; to ease pressure on emergency rooms and also to improve the lives of patients.

“It helps out our hospital system by keeping people out of the hospital ER” Slevin says. “We have a lot of repeat visitors.”

Those repeat visitors are often seniors who suffer heart failure and COPD and who head to the emergency room when they are feeling symptoms. The program also prevents patients from having to make those visits.

“It improves their quality of life” Slevin says explaining that often when patients experience troubling symptoms that is accompanied by anxiety which in turn worsens the symptoms.

The program outfits patients with a kit that includes a tablet computer blood pressure cuff oxygen monitor and scale.

“Those tools monitor your vital signs” Slevin says. Readings from the equipment are transmitted to the tablet with nurses able to remotely keep track of the readings. The patient also answers a series of questions on the tablet each day the whole process taking less than 15 minutes.

If a question is answered in a disconcerting way or if readings are poor “what our nurse sees is a red symbol beside the patient’s name” Slevin says.

Nurses and patients make contact by phone once a week.

The service is completely funded through the province and a technician visits the patients at their homes training them on the devices.

While the technological aspect of the program has been intimidating for some patients – most are over the age of 70 – “it’s the easiest thing” Slevin says paraphrasing a 78-year-old patient who recently joined.

“It’s very user-friendly” Slevin says. “And they have the support of our team.”

Good news for Haliburton County residents is that the program does not require users to have the Internet.

“We can connect people regardless of whether they have Internet or not” Slevin says. As she explains routers and SIM cards are used in cases where Internet is not available.

She says a number of people in the county are using  the program and that “we haven’t encountered any issues with connectivity.”

Patients keep the kits for six months and by the end of that period it’s hoped they are well-acquainted enough to practise self-monitoring and know when the situation is severe enough to warrant medical attention. She says many patients go out and purchase their own blood pressure cuffs and oxygen monitors after having used the program.

Anyone interested in the program can call 1-844-607-2549.