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Sunnybrook launches tele-homecare for diabetes

TORONTO – Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre, in partnership with Etobicoke and York Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), is applying telehealth technology to community care with the test of a new home diabetes management system.

Using a tiny monitor that connects to clinical equipment, such as a blood-pressure cuff, a patient’s readings are transmitted during the tele-visit to the physician, case manager or home healthcare professional. The patient, case manager, and other members of the care team can discuss results, answer questions and determine next steps in real-time with the physician.

“The home telehealth model will change the traditional face-to-face visit between a patient and healthcare provider to contact via teleconference, with the patient at home and the provider at the hospital,” said Sam Marafioti (pictured at left), vice president of eHealth at Sunnybrook & Women’s. “This model presents opportunities for integration between hospitals and community services and may begin to relieve the burden on hospitals.”

“Home telehealth has the potential to make a range of healthcare services traditionally provided in the hospital, available in a patient’s home. This will strengthen the links among physicians, case managers, and other members of the care team at the hospital and in the community. The patient benefits as the model paves the way to a more seamless continuum of follow-up care, education, and services,” said Cathy Szabo, executive director at Etobicoke and York CCAC.

The pilot project will test the delivery of multi-disciplinary diabetes care in patients’ homes using eHealth solutions. The project has two phases. The first phase is a five-month pilot. It will in turn launch a randomized controlled trial to determine the efficacy of eHealth technology versus traditional care delivery. In addition, researchers will study and assess patient and provider reactions to the technology and the change in healthcare delivery.

“Patients will benefit from more frequent contact with, and closer follow-up from, the healthcare team than they would ordinarily receive,” said Dr. Ivy Fettes, director of the endocrinology division, Department of Medicine, at Sunnybrook & Women’s and pilot project clinical lead. “This will provide patients with more opportunities to receive person-to-person education, ask questions, address problems and reduce the anxiety associated with intensifying diabetes treatment.”

Home telehealth services may be most beneficial for patients who require frequent contact with healthcare professionals. This particular pilot project is focusing on the diabetic population, since people with diabetes require frequent outpatient physician visits.

The average diabetic person in Ontario has 16 physician visits per year, but those aged 75 or older average nearly two visits per month. Patients who are unstable or are changing their therapy, for example, by initiating insulin treatment, require more physician and nursing visits as well as services from other healthcare providers.

“Our healthcare system is evolving in areas of prevention, continuity of care, patient satisfaction and patient education,” said Leo Steven, president and CEO, Sunnybrook & Women’s. “At the same time, the province is dealing with a shortage of healthcare professionals within hospitals and in the community. eHealth or home telehealth models, although in early stages of development, are emerging as innovative strategies that will create a more dynamic and responsive approach to delivering services closer to home and to provide health professionals more flexibility with patient care.”

Home eHealth solutions have the potential to reduce the geographical barriers for the delivery of quality healthcare. The emergence of eHealth strategies for clinical, educational, and administrative purposes could have a significant impact on healthcare delivery in the immediate future.

Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre is transforming healthcare through the dedication of its more than 10,000 staff members who provide compassionate and innovative patient focused care. An internationally recognized leader in women’s health, academic research and education and an affiliation with the University of Toronto distinguishes Sunnybrook & Women’sas one of Canada’s premier health sciences centres.

Sunnybrook & Women’s specializes in caring for newborns, adults and the elderly, treating and preventing cancer, heart problems, orthopaedic and arthritic conditions and traumatic injuries.

The Etobicoke and York Community Care Access Centre is helping more than 6,000 of its residents live independently in their homes by making the healthcare services they need accessible, responsive, and effective. The Etobicoke and York CCAC achieves this accountability through specialized and far-reaching case management services and dedicated staff and community partners.