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New web sites for people living with chronic disease

(NC) There are close to 1 million people in Ontario living with heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

These illnesses often have a debilitating effect on people's lives, tying them to a seemingly endless series of medical appointments or sending them unexpectedly to the hospital emergency room.

Two web sites have just launched to try to help individuals manage these chronic conditions and live a fuller, richer life.

The portals, and, offer clear, straightforward advice. They also link to numerous resources, including Telehomecare.

Telehomecare is a new service rolling out across Ontario. The program is free to patients and complements the care they receive from physicians. Participants use simple equipment to measure their vital signs and answer basic questions on how they feel each day. Specially-trained nurses monitor the results for any problems or warning signs. They also make weekly telephone calls to the patients to coach them on managing their condition.

Early Telehomecare results from the William Osler Health System program show a reduction in visits to hospital emergency rooms of 43 per cent, compared with the number of visits the patients were making prior to joining the program.

“We're looking at other ways to interact with our community without waiting until they need our emergency room,” says Matt Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Osler, the largest community hospital in the province. “With Telehomecare we can extend the reach of our health care professionals into the community. We see it as a key strategy for changing the way our hospital and our staff interact with our community.”

Among Canadians over the age of 65 today, 85 per cent of women and 77 per cent of men have some form of chronic medical condition. Those who can learn about their health issues and manage the day-to-day details are shown to live better lives, according to the Canadian Council on Learning.

With that in mind, Telehomecare is not simply about remote monitoring of a patient's vital signs from home. It's also about coaching from skilled nurses that motivates patients to manage their conditions, boosting their confidence and overall health.

Another benefit is that family caregivers begin to feel less overwhelmed because their loved ones are less dependent on hospital visits and able to stay home with the support of Telehomecare monitoring.

Among the other resources available on the two new health portals are the Live Strong Blog and the Breathe Easier Blog. Each site contains tips for living better. For example, the flu shot halves the risk of heart attack or stroke in heart patients, belting out a tune can help people who have difficulty breathing and exposure to sunlight lowers blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

For more information about Telehomecare, call 1.855.991.8191.

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