In 2012, I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe due to poor air flow. My mother had been previously diagnosed with COPD, and so I was unfortunately familiar with the complications associated with the condition, and how important it was to make positive lifestyle decisions to managing the disease on an ongoing basis.
Unlike my mother, I was able to take advantage of a new telehomecare monitoring system that was implemented in New Brunswick shortly after my diagnosis. The system allows patients to check their vital signs – pulse, oxygen saturation, weight and blood pressure – on a daily basis. Over a three-month period, I would answer a series of yes or no questions via my telephone and my answers would be sent immediately to a nurse’s computer. If there were any disconcerting results based on my patient profile, they would be flagged immediately to my care team, so that action could be taken.
Before having access to the telehomecare monitoring, I was limited to just monthly monitoring, that didn’t provide a complete, accurate picture of my health to my care team. For example, if I happened to be having a particularly good or bad day on the designated monitoring day for that month, it would skew my results and make it seem that I was either doing better, or worse, than I was. With the daily monitoring, it also allowed my care team to monitor my health each day, and intervene immediately if necessary. Beyond that, the system allowed me to share the long-term analysis with my family physician, who could stay up-to-date on my progress.
Before my experiences with telehomecare, I was resistant and skeptical of the impact that technology could have. I didn’t have a cell phone, I don’t use email and didn’t think technology was something I could use to help me improve my life. But the telehomecare monitor showed me a direct link between the lifestyle choices I made and the impact on my health. For example, if I ate a high-sodium meal one night, I would see the effect on my vitals the next morning.
Through telehomecare, I have been fortunate to be more proactive and empowered in managing my condition, effectively managing my condition to allow me to live a normal and active life.