Coming to your community – Health care from your home computer
August 26, 2013
As featured on the Simon Fraser University website:
Simon Fraser University professor Scott Lear and his research team have developed a website to help patients living with diabetes, heart, kidney and lung disease manage their health - all in the comfort of their own homes.
Patients living throughout B.C. are being invited to participate in an ongoing study tracking its use.
"Chronic disease rates are higher in small urban and rural areas, yet access to care is limited to larger cities," notes Lear. "Patients from remote areas often end up traveling long distances to receive care, sometimes at great time and financial costs.
"With monitoring through the Internet, patients can be better supported to manage medications and symptoms and to follow preventive strategies at home."
Lear's program, My Health Connect, offers patients just that. "Our program is designed to help patients keep track of their own health, and receive coordinated care through a team-based approach between the My Health Connect nurse, patient and their local physicians," he says.
Developed in collaboration with the province's health authorities and currently undergoing study throughout the province, My Health Connect tracks symptom data and measurements such as blood pressure, weight and sugar levels.
Using a computer algorithm, if a value falls outside an individual's normal range, an alert is sent to a designated nurse, who telephones the patient and provides counseling and advice on whether to see a doctor. Since patients manually enter the data, no specialized equipment is necessary. The program also provides access to dietician and exercise specialist support.
Says one participant: "The program has had a significant and positive effect on my health. The daily reports have helped me to stay focused on improving those issues that I must address. Having the counsel of a nurse during the program greatly assisted me in understanding the questions I needed to have answered."
Given the program's coordination with the patient's doctor, it's anticipated My Health Connect will prevent disease progression, reduce the need for patient travel for care and keep patients out of hospital. Early studies have indicated that disease risk factors can be reduced through Internet-based programs.
Dr. Kandasamy Gounden is one of a number of physicians with patients in the study. "My Health Connect has been an invaluable support for my patients. I have several patients using the system, and it has helped them to take charge of their own health. They are able to keep better records of their symptoms and to self-manage between appointments with timely and individualized feedback from the nurse. This helps make our visits more focused and informed."
Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, Lear is seeking additional patients to participate in the ongoing study.