Helping patients manage heart disease online
Heart Failure (CHF) is a progressive, chronic, terminal disease that has been documented to affect over 70,000 people in British Columbia, including more than 15,000 living within the Vancouver area. It is estimated that in reality double that number of individuals are affected and with an aging of the population, HF will reach epidemic proportions in the years to come. Heart failure is also the most costly chronic disease, costing the province more than $96 million/year.
In 1999, the Heart Function Clinic (HFC) was established at Providence Health Care at Vancouver’s St Pauls Hospital with the objectives of reducing mortality and morbidity, reducing cost of patient care, improving patient quality of life, increasing patient education, and implementing a system to track the clinical outcomes in CHF patients.
OpenRoad was hired to build a web-based system that allows for heart failure patients to self-manage their disease by keeping track of their daily weight and answering several questions about their current heart failure symptoms. This system then reports data back to the clinical and nursing staff at the Heart Function Clinic, who review and triage the data, along with any alerts generated due to drastic increases in weight or negative answers to the condition questions.
The application launched with a year-long research study of heart failure patients in June 2006, testing the hypothesis that patients can use a web-based system to self-manage their disease, under the shared-care remote supervision of their primary and secondary care providers.
In 2007 the results were presented at the 7th Annual Conference on Successes & Failures in Telehealth in Brisbane, Australia. The study was successful , with patients self-managing and reporting satisfaction with the program. The Heart Clinic continues to expand the functionality and reach of the application, building on the success of the past few years.
Systems like the Virtual Heart program demonstrate how web-based technologies can improve healthcare through simple, but powerful user experience design. By enabling patients to manage their disease from home, the system improves their quality of life, reduces demands on nursing time, reduces the number of clinic visits and hospital admissions, and therefore reduce health care costs.