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Better health. At home.

(NC) A free service that remotely connects health care providers with patients in their homes is rolling out across the province.

Telehomecare services have launched in parts of Northern Ontario and throughout most of the Greater Toronto Area, improving the quality of life of people with chronic heart or lung disease. Participants have been able to reduce unnecessary trips to the hospital, including emergency room visits.

Using simple technology, specially trained nurses are coaching patients and teaching them how to manage their care in the comfort of their own homes. The process allows nurses to monitor their patients' conditions remotely. It complements the regular care provided by each patient's physician, and at the same time it helps keep patients independent and living in their own homes.

“The daily monitoring of my weight, blood pressure and oxygen levels kept me focused on maintaining a healthier lifestyle,” says Donna, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

But even more valuable for the 59-year-old, was the lifeline her nurse provided. “To her I will be forever grateful. She counseled on diet and exercise to keep my weight and strength up when I was second guessing myself. She was my personal cheerleader,” Donna says.

The service is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Canada Health Infoway. It's designed by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), which has ensured that technology will not be a barrier for patients.

Jenny is a 90-year-old living independently in Toronto. Initially, she was hesitant about using Telehomecare to help her manage chronic heart failure. “I didn't even have a computer in my home,” she says.

But with some guidance, Jenny became adept at checking her blood pressure, weight, heart rate and pulse, as well as answering a few simple daily questions on a touch-screen tablet provided by the program.

The answers to questions such as, 'Are you more tired today than yesterday?', 'Are you short of breath today?' or 'Do you have any pain?' go directly to the patent's Telehomecare nurse.

In Jenny's case, her nurse noticed one day that Jenny's heart rate was lower than normal and that she had shortness of breath on the phone. The nurse directed Jenny to her family doctor and later to a pacemaker clinic where a cardiologist increased her pacemaker rate. The effect was almost immediate. “I felt like someone had lifted [a weight] off me,” Jenny says.

Telehomecare is also easing the minds of family caregivers. John helps to look after his 93-year-old mother, who was admitted to hospital last year for chronic heart failure. He didn't know what to do upon her release, but after he discovered Telehomecare, both of them learned to recognize some of her symptoms early and even how to avoid them.

“As a family caregiver, you don't want to be a doctor – I'm a stock broker! — but you do want to be able to help your parent manage knowledgeably,” he says.

For more information about Telehomecare, phone 1.855.991.8191 or go to OntarioTelehomecare.ca

www.newscanada.com

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