Chronic disease management study focusses on small communities

Keremeos could benefit from website designed to help patients with chronic disease

Simon Fraser University professor Scott Lear and his research team have developed a website to help patients living with diabetes, heart, kidney and lung disease manage their health – all in the comfort of their own homes.

Patients living throughout B.C. are being invited to participate in an ongoing study tracking its use.

“Chronic disease rates are higher in small urban and rural areas, yet access to care is limited to larger cities,” notes Lear. “Patients from remote areas often end up traveling long distances to receive care, sometimes at great time and financial costs.

“With monitoring through the Internet, patients can be better supported to manage medications and symptoms and to follow preventive strategies at home.”

Lear’s program, My Health Connect, offers patients just that. “Our program is designed to help patients keep track of their own health, and receive coordinated care through a team-based approach between the My Health Connect nurse, patient and their local physicians,” he says.

Developed in collaboration with the province’s health authorities and currently undergoing study throughout the province, My Health Connect tracks symptom data and measurements such as blood pressure, weight and sugar levels.

Using a computer algorithm, if a value falls outside an individual’s normal range, an alert is sent to a designated nurse, who telephones the patient and provides counseling and advice on whether to see a doctor. Since patients manually enter the data, no specialized equipment is necessary. The program also provides access to dietician and exercise specialist support.

Josh MacIver, Research Coordinator, British Columbia Alliance on Telehealth Policy and Research (BCATPR) said that patient confidentiality restricts the study from revealing who in Keremeos might be part of the study. “It is a little difficult given that we have had trouble getting consent from physicians in Keremeos to consent to us contacting their patients I can say that we have been contacting Keremeos physicians and that we have one physician who has expressed interest in the study. Until we get this consent, however, it would be difficult for us to integrate our study into Keremeos,” MacIver said.

“The system is actually in use, we have over 100 people randomized into the study at this point, ” he added.