“This program taught me to live,” says Shirley Tucker, an Eastern Health patient who lives with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Powerful words indeed. As the program manager for the Remote Patient Monitoring Program (RPM), I had the pleasure of speaking with Shirley and other patients, Malcolm McGregor and Manuel Bolt, about their experiences as RPM program participants.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is a free, at-home monitoring program, available to patients in the Eastern Health region who live with chronic diseases including COPD or Heart Failure (HF). Through the use of very simple technology, patients enrolled in this program are monitored by a highly skilled, experienced registered nurse who provides coaching, education and support to help them gain the skills needed to improve their quality of life.
Patients take their vital signs and weight daily and answer some questions about their symptoms. These are automatically transmitted to their assigned nurse, who uses the information to determine the required level of support. The nurse calls the patient and provides education and intervention, if needed.
Shirley, 71, has been living with COPD for over 10 years, and says she can’t believe the difference in her life since joining the program.
“Before I joined the program, I would panic when I couldn’t catch my breath at night, which made it worse. It was really scary. I didn’t know anxiety could be part of COPD. I would call 911 and be sitting by my front door when the paramedics came. Through this program, I’ve learned how to take better care of myself!
“Before, I was not educated in how to manage my condition. Lori, my nurse, has been a great comfort to me. She supports me when I need her and taught me how to use the COPD action plan, which is completed by my doctor specifically for me. Now when I have symptoms in the middle of the night, I follow the steps in my action plan. My symptoms improve – and I avoid a hospital visit!
“I recommend the program to anyone who needs to learn more about their disease, and everyone needs to learn more. Sometimes I feel like I’d be gone now if it hadn’t been for this program. Now, I think I can face whatever comes.”
Malcolm McGregor, 79, brings another perspective to the RPM Program. Mr. McGregor is a man who has always taken very good care of himself and his health needs. He has completed the Tely 10 many times and has won the bronze medallion in his age group. This year, he had a bit of a shock when he was diagnosed with heart failure and had to be hospitalized. He wanted to take a proactive approach to managing his condition.
“With my age and heart condition, any assistance I could get would be worth the effort. The nurse monitoring my vital signs takes the pressure off my wife and me. I’ve always had a good understanding of my health, but my dietary habits have changed as a result of the nutritional knowledge I’ve gained in the program. I know there’s a link between salt in my diet, increased fluid, congestion and possibly going to the hospital. One of the best parts of the program is that it bridges the gap between visits with the cardiologist – the nurse is always there. It’s excellent service.”
Manuel Bolt, 80, from the rural community of Grand Bank describes the great change in his life since joining the program. His COPD was preventing him from enjoying the activities he always loved to do, such as attend church, garden and work with furniture – and even impacted his ability to get a good night’s rest.
“My life was miserable. I’d get in bed, and have to get right out again. I had to sit up to sleep, I couldn’t breathe. When I heard about the program, I figured it might do me some good.”
At one time, Mr. Bolt didn’t have a good understanding of the purpose and method of using his medications. “I had to go to ER a lot for masks for my shortness of breath. But I control it myself now, with taking my puffers like I’m supposed to, and talking to my nurse. Now, I can do the things I enjoy, like growing my grapes, beets and potatoes. I use my inhalers before going to church and that’s better. The machine is the best thing, and I love talking to my nurse. My wife and son are supportive and have seen a big difference in me. The best part is when I go to bed now, I can go to sleep. I can breathe better.”
Like Ms. Tucker, Mr. McGregor and Mr. Bolt, other patients enrolled in the RPM Program have seen many health benefits and are learning to be the experts in their own care – by managing their own disease – and improving the quality of their lives.
It is so rewarding to be a part of such an innovative program which allows a patient to receive care and support in their own home. Their personal stories and achievements are inspiring to the RPM team and motivates us to move forward to grow and strengthen our program and offer it to the people who need it. ■
If you live with COPD or heart failure, reside in the Eastern Health region and would like to learn more about this program, visit our website or contact us at (709) 777-3905, 1-844-455-3905 or RPM@easternhealth.ca.
This story was written by Kim Ghaney, program manager of the Eastern Health Remote Patient Monitoring program.