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Technology helps patients monitor their heart health

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A telehealth home monitoring program that helps people who have been diagnosed with heart failure has come to Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) in Kamloops, and is helping area residents deal with their condition in an informed way, with the help of modern technology.

The program—the result of a partnership between Interior Health and Telus—sees eligible patients visited by a Telus representative, who provides a scale, blood pressure monitor, oximeter, and tablet, and connects them via the Internet to RIH. Every day for three months the patient records her or his weight, blood pressure, and blood oxygen reading with the equipment provided, and uses the tablet to answer a series of questions about their heart health.

The results are recorded at RIH, with nurses able to provide follow-up if the results show any cause for concern. Patients enrolled in the program are also provided with a binder full of information about their condition, containing sections dealing with diet, exercise, and more, and have access to medical staff who can answer questions, provide guidance, and help them through an often difficult time.

The program has been operating within the Interior Health area for some time, and came to RIH in August of 2017, says Ian Wood, manager of cardiac services for RIH. “Patients are referred by cardiologists, and nurses try to find patients. If someone is admitted to the hospital with heart failure, a nurse will come to see you and ask if you’re interested in the program, and the technology that goes with it.”

Wood says that while people need to be comfortable with the technology, Telus makes it easy to use. “It’s easy and quick, and we’ve had a good take-up. Most people like the idea of connecting with others regarding their health, and self-managing their condition.”

Wood notes that the program is particularly helpful for those in rural areas who are at some distance from RIH, and who would otherwise be making frequent trips to Kamloops for monitoring. “We cover a big area, and for people who have to make the trip [to RIH] in winter it makes things easier.”

Zoe Bradshaw, RN, oversees the program at RIH, and has been with it since the beginning. “She’s an amazing nurse,” says Wood. “She’s the right person for the job. She helped shape the program and knows how to engage with people. She’s made it what it is today.”

A 54-year-old Ashcroft resident* who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure earlier this year has been enrolled in the program since April, and can attest to its benefits.

“It’s been very easy to use,” she says. “I’m pretty tech-savvy, but even if I wasn’t, I’d have no trouble using the technology. It only takes two minutes, first thing every morning. The Telus technician who installed it was very helpful, and Zoe and her colleagues have been wonderful. They did a great job of explaining the program to me, and they do regular check-ups by phone to make sure everything is going fine and to see if I have any questions.

“They said right from the start that ‘No question is too stupid.’ They have the expertise, and I don’t, and it’s good to know that I can phone them any time with any question. Monitoring my condition on a daily basis keeps me informed about my health, and teaches me to recognize what’s happening, and why. When the program ends I’ll be able to use what I’ve learned to self-manage my health and understand what’s going on, and how to stay healthy.”

Wood says that a maximum of 30 people are enrolled in the program at a given time, and that a specific set of criteria is used to determine who is an appropriate patient.

“Being comfortable with the use of technology is one thing, and it has to be someone who wants to do it. The goal is that after three months [in the program] people know how to manage their health.

“I’m a big advocate for the program, and really believe in it. Technology in health care is just starting; this is only the beginning. I’m looking forward to seeing what it does in other areas in the future.”

*For more from the patient, please see this week’s “Editor’s Desk” column.


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