Monitoring health at home: Yukon to test new program

A pilot program, starting this fall, will see about 50 Yukoners with chronic disease given tools to monitor their health and vital signs, at home. 'It's the technology that is catching up to what patients want.'

'It’s kind of an 'everybody wins' strategy,' says TELUS Health spokesperson

The pilot program will provide chronic disease patients in Yukon with technology and training to measure their own vital signs at home, and transmit the data to a caregiver. (TELUS Health)

A pilot program, starting in Yukon this fall, will allow some patients with chronic disease to skip visits to the clinic and, instead, log on to a computer tablet at home.

"It's the technology that is catching up to what patients want, in terms of being able to monitor their own health," said Dave Wattling of TELUS Health, the company working on the project with the Yukon government.

Up to 50 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will be part of the program that begins in September.

'The biggest benefit, frankly, is for those that live in remote communities, because you are saving significant travel time,' said Dave Wattling of TELUS Health. (TELUS Health)

They'll be given tablets, weight scales, blood pressure monitors and other equipment to measure vital signs, oxygen saturation and lung performance, at home. A nurse will train patients to use the equipment.

The data will be shared with a care provider, who is remotely monitoring the patient and can respond when issues or concerns arise.

"It's kind of an 'everybody wins' strategy. The patients love it, it's convenient," Wattling said. "It's very simple to use, very big buttons, easy connectivity between the devices.

"You get that ongoing coaching, that ongoing relationship with the care provider, without actually having to go to the clinic."

Benefits for remote communities

Wattling says the technology has been a big success wherever it's been introduced. He says it's been shown to reduce emergency room visits and shorten hospital stays, saving money for the health care system.

He also says the technology, which has been used by about 7,500 Canadians so far, has "almost 100 per cent patient recommendation."

The Yukon program will be available to COPD patients throughout the territory, Wattling says.

"The biggest benefit, frankly, is for those that live in remote communities, because you are saving significant travel time."

The government says the trail phase of the project will last until March 2017, with an assessment to follow.

With files from Mardy Derby