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VIHA launches home monitoring of heart patients

VICTORIA, B.C. – Some heart-failure patients who live in the Greater Victoria area are now able to manage their healthcare in just a few minutes a day, from the comfort of their own homes, with the help of Telehomecare – an in-home monitoring system being launched by the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA).

“Telehomecare enables rapid detection of problems, allows patients to self-manage their care and saves travel time for both patients and caregivers,” said BC Health Services Minister George Abbott. “It is one way we are breaking down barriers to quality healthcare for British Columbians regardless of where people live.”

Every day at a set time, an in-home monitoring device will greet the patient with a pre-recorded message to remind them to take their vital signs: blood pressure, pulse, oxygen saturation level and weight. This information is then automatically transmitted over the phone to a computer in VIHA’s Home and Community Care office, where the data is reviewed.

Christine Gotzman, VIHA’s Home and Community Care’s Heart Failure Nurse, recognizes the impact that this new service will have on patients who live with heart failure. “Until now, my only communication with my patients has been in person or over the phone,” she says. “This new Telehomecare service gives me the ability to remotely ‘see’ how my patients are doing on a daily basis and deliver care proactively. Once the data is sent to my computer, I can quickly assess their condition and, if necessary, provide a targeted response to their changing health status.”

The first phase of the Telehomecare program will measure the progress of approximately 100 patients living with heart failure chosen through VIHA’s Seniors At Risk Integrated Network, currently operating in the Greater Victoria area. The long-term goal is to provide Telehomecare services throughout Vancouver Island.

“This innovative program offers many direct benefits to our patients,” said VIHA’s Board Chair Jac Kreut, “including improved access to care, a reduction in emergency room visits, shorter hospital stays and fewer hospital admissions.”

The Telehomecare program is being delivered as part of a larger provincial Telehealth strategy that includes VIHA and Interior Health, with a combined budget of $836,000. Interior Health initially launched its Telehomecare program in 2006, and recently expanded its program last fall to include patients in the East Kootenays.

Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) is contributing $333,000 to the projects. Infoway is leading the development and implementation of electronic health projects across Canada. Infoway works with provinces and territories to invest in electronic health projects, which support safer, more efficient health-care delivery.

“As Canada’s population ages and grows and the prevalence of chronic illness increases, electronic health record systems like Telehomecare offer innovative ways to improve access to quality care,” said Richard Alvarez, president and CEO, Canada Health Infoway. “Infoway is proud to invest in this initiative, which will empower patients to manage and direct their own care.”

For more information on heart health, visit VIHA’s website at: