Virtual health care in the era of COVID-19

Virtual health care in the era of COVID-19

A recent article in The Lancet looks at how telemedicine is being embraced like never before in the era of COVID-19.

Dr. Alex Jadad, founder of Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, was interviewed by Paul Webster for an April 2020 article in The Lancet on the use of telemedicine during COVID-19.

In the article, Alex talks about how the pandemic has presented an opportunity to overcome regulatory barriers and make virtual health care available to more people.

“Whether I’m deep in Malawi or deep in the Amazon, all I need is a mobile phone and a connection that allows me to talk to a clinician. That’s all it takes for a clinical encounter. These are god-like tools for medicine. There’s no need for us to wait for any more sophisticated infrastructure than that”, says Jadad, who is advising on virtual health-care adoption strategies for health groups in Colombia.

“The regulatory barriers that have held virtual health care back for all these decades were never justifiable”, Jadad avers. “[COVID-19] is an opportunity to blow all these barriers away. And the question now is ‘how far are we willing to go?’”

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CAN Health Network established to facilitate the adoption of Canadian health care solutions.

CAN Health Network established to facilitate the adoption of Canadian health care solutions.

CAN Health Network established to facilitate the adoption of Canadian health care solutions.

On July 29th, The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, announced that the government of Canada will support a $20-million project proposal to scale up companies in both health and biosciences. This will see an initial $7-million investment to support the establishment of the CAN Health Network in Western Canada and Ontario, with further expansion of the network planned at a later stage for Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and Northern Canada.

Within Ontario, the CAN Health Network will be led by Trillium Health Partners and will further comprise of leading health care organisations, industry and thought leadership. The Network will enable MedTech Companies to work with health care providers in developing working innovative technological solutions on Canadian soil that address common Canadian health care challenges.

The University Health Network is honoured to be announced as an inaugural partner of the CAN Health Network. UHN’s involvement in the network with be supported by Dr. Joseph Cafazzo, who leads TECHNA Institute teams, the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation and Healthcare Human Factors. Familiar with the challenges of technology adoption within healthcare, Dr. Cafazzo believes the CAN Health Network is unprecedented and comes at a critical time for Canadians.

“Technology solutions will not address the needs of our patients if they are not informed by close collaborations between industry, healthcare practitioners, and most critically the patients we serve. The CAN Health Network is brilliantly conceived to address this and we look forward to engaging with our network partners and some of the best minds in Canada’s tech industry to set the course for the modern delivery of care in this country.” – Dr. Joseph Cafazzo, Lead, eHealth Innovation

“There is a lot of pent up demand for innovations to address our health system challenges. At the same time there is untapped capacity to address these challenges within both the public sector academic health sciences sector and Canada’s growing health technology sector. This funding will go towards facilitating the interactions between these sectors to bring products and services to market sooner and improve the overall quality of these innovations. We will see this network not only bringing in new existing solutions into the health sector but also knowledge and IP transfer from the academic health sciences centers, into Canada’s private health tech sector.”

“Technology solutions will not address the needs of our patients if they are not informed by close collaborations between industry, healthcare practitioners, and most critically the patients we serve. The CAN Health Network is brilliantly conceived to address this and we look forward to engaging with our network partners and some of the best minds in Canada’s tech industry to set the course for the modern delivery of care in this country.”

You can read the official CAN Health Network announcement HERE.

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Heart Failure Care Without Borders

Heart Failure Care Without Borders

Heart Failure Care Without Borders:

How one new technology is paving
the way for a new model of care.

Heart failure is the most rapidly rising cardiovascular disease in Canada, currently affecting  more than 1 million people nationally, and with more than 50,000 new diagnoses annually. A complex chronic condition, people living with heart failure face symptoms of shortness of breath, swelling in the lower limbs, and fatigue, as well as frequent flare-ups often leading to hospital admission. The journey that follows heart failure diagnosis is undeniably challenging and for many, life altering.

Heart failure management requires patients to take an active role in their care by maintaining a low-sodium diet, restricting fluids and taking their medication as prescribed. Guideline directed care is a cornerstone of therapy. A major challenge in care is the lack of access to heart failure specialists. Currently, in Canada, clinics are facing high patient volumes that cannot be supported with traditional patient visits alone.

 Within the Heart Failure Clinic at University Health Network’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre one program is helping pave the way to transform how care is delivered for heart failure patients and reduce the burden on the health system, and most importantly the patients themselves.

Medly, a heart failure management program,developed by the teams at UHN’s eHealth Innovation, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, is a first of its kind in Ontario and Canada. Medly is unlike traditional telemonitoring programs with its use of the Medly management algorithm, developed by heart failure clinicians to rapidly assess and triage patients, and the creation of a new role in the heart failure care delivery model: a Medly coordinator role.

Mary O’Sullivan, a registered nurse and the Medly coordinator at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, currently manages nearly 300 heart failure patients, a patient volume not typical of such a role. For Mary, her patient load is made possible and has the potential to grow with the support of the Medly Program.

“I am able to connect and give nursing care to patients across the province each day,” Mary says. “ Medly provides a platform for such a unique nurse-patient relationship. It allows me to gain insight into how their heart failure management fits into their daily lives and enables me to interact with patients in their own environment and develop long-term relationships with them. This personal element enhances the way that I assess, triage and provide education for these patients.”

 

I am able to connect and give nursing care to patients across the province each day. Medly provides a platform for such a unique nurse-patient relationship. It allows me to gain insight into how their heart failure management fits into their daily lives and enables me to interact with patients in their own environment and develop long-term relationships with them. This personal element enhances the way that I assess, triage and provide education for these patients.

The Medly Program allows Mary to assess, support, and provide education for her patients in real time from wherever they may be located. These patients use the Medly smartphone application to record their daily weight, blood pressure, heart rate and symptoms. These measurements are analyzed instantly via the Medly management algorithm. If the algorithm determines that a patient’s clinical status is deteriorating, an actionable feedback message is sent to the patient, and Mary is alerted through the Medly clinician dashboard. When alerts are received, Mary assesses the patient’s clinical need and can escalate to the patient’s cardiologist who then provides higher-level clinical expertise. Through this alert escalation process, more patients are able to access their heart failure specialist at the right time

For one of Medly’s clinical champions, cardiologist and Division Head, Cardiology, at PMCC Dr. Heather Ross, the addition of Mary’s role to the Peter Munk Cardiac Clinic has proved to be invaluable. “Mary has allowed us to realize the promise of Medly, specifically being able to scale a remote monitoring intervention to a large population at reasonable cost.”

 In a perfect world, Mary’s role and technologies like Medly would already be infused and easily deployed across the healthcare system. Product Owner at eHealth Innovation, Mala Dorai believes the program is unparalleled to any other heart failure management solution she has come across.

 “The rapidly rising burden of heart failure requires us to think outside the box. We at eHealth Innovation are doing just that. We designed the Medly program with a team of engineers, researchers and human factors experts who understand the needs of heart failure patients, and consulting heart failure specialists with the practical clinical knowledge and processes of Canada’s leading cardiac care centre (PMCC). This is why I believe Medly is the kind of specialized yet scalable solution capable of addressing this critical need.”

 For more information on the team behind Medly and the program itself, you can visit: Medly.ca/about

 

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