There are three reasons that Telehomecare is a trend I would like to see more of in today’s healthcare system.
- It empowers patients to take a more active role in their health.
- It reduces system costs, emergency room visits and hospital admissions.
- It improves health outcomes.
In a recent Hospital News article, I described how the innovative Telehomecare program run by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) is positively impacting the lives of both patients and doctors. Through OTN, I had the opportunity to learn about Beatrice, a 77-year-old Telehomecare patient living with a chronic illness. Recommended by her doctor, Dr. Sanjeev Goel, having Beatrice enrolled in the program allows him to monitor her condition – and provide real-time care – in ways he normally couldn’t.
I’ll give you an example of how this works. In one case, Dr. Goel received an instant message from Beatrice’s Telehomecare nurse alerting him that Beatrice had a rising fever and cough. With a simple phone call, Dr. Goel was able to immediately get a prescription over to Beatrice. Without daily monitoring, Dr. Goel may have become aware of Beatrice’s failing condition too late to avoid hospital admission. As a physician, I appreciate how effective monitoring can prevent chronic conditions from deteriorating into acute events.
I value the care advancements that TELUS Health has enabled by working with OTN and its clinical partners that administer the program such as participating Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). We expect the program will expand to upwards of 30,000 patients across the province by 2015. Already, the benefits have been remarkable. Early results from the Central West LHIN based on utilization data indicate a 71 per cent reduction in hospital admissions and 43 person reduction in ER visits.
OTN currently focuses on empowering Ontarians to learn how to manage their chronic conditions – like congestive heart failure (CHF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – to prevent exacerbations and complications. And patients like Beatrice, who say the program has significantly improved her quality of life, make it all worthwhile.
Dr. Michael Guerriere is Chief Medical Officer and Vice-President, Transformation Services at TELUS Health.