A LIFE TRANSFORMED
Since its launch, Eastern Health’s Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) program has been transforming patients’ lives. It’s been helping them stay at home instead of the hospital and it’s helping them avoid trips to the emergency room.
Joy Williams is one such patient. Since enrolling in the program, Joy has stopped using her blood pressure medication, left behind her walking stick and, best of all, is now able to spend more time with her energetic granddaughter.
That’s because the program enabled Joy, who has diabetes, to monitor her condition using digital health tools and share the information electronically with a registered nurse in another community. Through the RPM (which is also known as telehomecare) program, she can access round-the-clock coaching, education and support that has enabled her to improve her condition.
Life was very different for Joy before enrolling in the program. She had been living with diabetes for two decades, and as a result, went on to develop hypertension and became insulin-dependent.
“It seemed like no matter what I did, I just couldn't wrestle my diabetes symptoms under control,” she says. “I was taking massive amounts of insulin and still not accomplishing the target levels that were suggested by my health care providers.”
Joy’s struggle with diabetes eventually led to osteoarthritis, forcing her to walk with a cane and rely on her two adult children to help complete everyday tasks.
“It felt like my entire world was shrinking and I was really helpless,” she says. “It was a really awful feeling.”
Things changed when a friend handed Joy a brochure for the RPM program which she had come across at an Eastern Health fair.
Within a week of reaching out to the RPM team, Joy received a tablet, which she used to connect to a registered nurse who remotely monitored and coached her.
“It was all really instrumental in teaching me how to recognize and treat my condition, and better yet, how to avoid having symptoms altogether,” she says. “That was invaluable to me because I didn't know how to do that before.”
Just seven months later, Joy was able to get her diabetes under control, lose weight, decrease her medication consumption, lower her blood pressure and start walking without a cane.
CHANGING HEALTH CARE DELIVERY
Introduced in 2014, the RPM program helps patients living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure or diabetes better manage their conditions through at-home monitoring, coaching and education.
Eastern Health — the largest Regional Health Authority in Newfoundland and Labrador, serving an estimated 300,000 residents — designed the program to help patients become active and educated participants in the management of their health. The program’s goal was to help improve the quality of life for patients while reducing burden on the health system by reducing the number of ER visits and hospital admissions through the use of digital health solutions.
When the program was introduced in 2014, Kim Ghaney, a registered nurse and an Engagement and Implementation Manager for the RPM program, saw it as an opportunity to help patients become more proactive in managing their health.
“Access to health care today is challenging because of geography, so providing health services to patients where they live is really important,” says Kim. “Within Eastern Health, we have an aging population and many patients have more than one chronic disease. In order to meet their needs, we needed to have a ground-breaking solution to reach them within their community.”
Using digital health to remotely monitor and coach patients benefits both patients and the health system. Eastern Health says there has been a 13 per cent reduction in ER visits as a result of the program.
Arming patients with the ability to self-manage their condition is especially important in a province where some patients are a 20-hour drive from the hospital.
“We’re putting the patient in charge of their own care,” says Ron Johnson, Vice President, Information Services and Rural Health at Eastern Health. “By giving people access to the information they need to self-manage their own disease, and in a timely way, the RPM program is helping them become empowered and be the experts in their own health care journey.”
DIGITAL IS THE FUTURE
Canada Health Infoway helped fund the initial program as well as expansion efforts across the province.
“This program would not be in existence if it weren't for our partnerships with organizations like Infoway,” says Kim. “They were integral to supporting us from the beginning and getting us to where we are today. Now, it’s really important for Eastern Health to be part of the ACCESS 2022 movement because the use of digital health solutions is the way of the future. Having a partnership between health care providers who share a similar view on digitizing the health care industry across the country will help us achieve greater results and a greater quality of life for our patients.”