Home health monitoring program gets up and running

A pilot project aimed at helping people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to use technology to stay healthier at home is about to get started in Yukon.

A pilot project aimed at helping people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to use technology to stay healthier at home is about to get started in Yukon.

The home health monitoring program is giving patients with stages 2 and 3 COPD equipment to track their health, in the hope of allowing them to manage their health better and improve their quality of life, said project manager Anne Aram.

“It’s about learning to understand your symptoms, understand your disease better, gain some knowledge and be able to react more quickly if you’re having an exacerbation.”

COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes breathing difficulty, coughing, mucus production and wheezing.

According to the Yukon health department, as of the 2015-16 fiscal year, 321 Yukoners older than 35 have COPD.

Every day for at least three months patients will take their blood pressure, measure their oxygen saturation, and record how many steps they’ve walked, using equipment provided by the health department.

On a tablet computer they’ll answer questions about how they’re feeling that day.

All that information will be sent via the 3G network to a central office where health staff can track how things are going and call the patient if they see any red flags.

Having equipment at home is not meant to replace emergency services, Aram said. If they need to, patients should still call 911 or go to the hospital.

But this allows them to be more aware of their symptoms and track what might be causing flare-ups, she said.

The program officially starts Jan. 16 but patients can sign up through the territory’s chronic conditions support program until April 30.

The Yukon is hoping to have 50 people in the program. Right now there are still a few dozen empty spots, Aram said.

Ten spots are reserved for patients in the communities but none of those have been taken.

Staff will also be evaluating whether this type of home monitoring is user friendly and able to be used effectively in the Yukon.

“We’re not just evaluating how people improve their condition… it’s about how is this going to work in the Yukon and is this a viable method of providing some degree of healthcare.”

In other jurisdictions, home monitoring is used for patients with heart failure or those in palliative care, she said.

In 2015 the Vancouver Island Health Authority found that heart failure patients who were monitoring themselves at home reduced the number of times they were admitted to the hospital by 67 per cent and reduced the length of their hospital stay by 59 per cent.

Aram says it’s unlikely the Yukon’s pilot project alone will be long enough to know for sure whether local hospital visits come down.

Results from the trial will be evaluated at the end of July.

The program is being paid for with $500,000 in federal money through the territorial health investment fund.

The pilot project is good news for people with COPD, said Yukon Lung Association president Doug MacLean.

“Home health management will help people manage their health, stay safely at home and live fuller lives.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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