Multidisciplinary Healthcare Network for Enhanced Cardiac Treatment
The concept of patient-centred care still seems to be a pipe dream for many patients. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it evident that the focus of healthcare often, though unintentional, drifts toward the disease rather than the patient. Despite the many medical innovations that have broadened the value-based care options for almost every disease, patients still have trouble accessing relevant care. Whether it is due to scarcity of medical information, distance from advanced healthcare centers, or high care costs, patients often do not get the right care to effectively treat their diseases.
Bridging the gap between patients and advanced care options requires patient-aligned healthcare networks that can seamlessly connect patients with timely and cost-effective medical care. Fulfilling this role for cardiac patients across Canada is the patient-driven, non-profit association, CANet.
The company brings together healthcare professionals, patients, academia, government, and not-for-profit organizations to undertake ground-breaking cardiac research and develop powerful digital health tools to improve the care journey of patients. By putting the right tools in the hands of patients at the right time, CANet enables them to manage their complex health conditions.
Federally funded in part by Canada’s flagship science and technology program, Networks of Centres of Excellence, CANet is housed in the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University. The university funds and supports CANet’s research and operations, even housing its administrative offices in the Western Centre for Public Health and Family Medicine.
“CANet’s commitment to patients throughout the medical research and development is setting a new precedent for patient-driven healthcare. We are happy to nurture CANet’s goal of revolutionizing cardiac care across Canada,” says Dr. John Yoo, Dean, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University.
CANet’s patient-driven research perfectly aligns with Western University’s goal of enhancing targeted treatments for patients in Canada and across the globe.
“CANet is fostering innovation on a grand scale by facilitating collaboration and data sharing among clinician-scientists, basic scientists, engineers, and social scientists across the country,” says Alan Shepard, President of Western University. “The Network’s contribution to developing novel digital health technologies will allow patients to receive vital and potentially life-saving medical care no matter where they live in the world.”
VIRTUES — The Digital Health Companion Every Heart Patient Needs
With support across Canada, CANet has developed VIRTUES, a digital health platform designed to provide patients with the most relevant medical information, facilitate access to effective care options, and connect them with physicians who understand their medical and personal care requirements.
“VIRTUES utilizes state-of-the-art biosensor-driven diagnostics and health informatics—augmented with advanced analytics and wireless connectivity—to provide cardiac patients access to on-demand virtual care,” says Dr. Anthony Tang, CEO and scientific director, CANet.
What’s impressive about VIRTUES is that the platform is not owned by hospitals, businesses, insurance companies, or physicians; it is in the hands of CANet’s patient partners. The platform was designed to be a patient-controlled digital health system from the moment the first code was written, which places it in a league of its own. Often, ‘patient engagement’ is just an afterthought in profit-driven digital health platforms, where patients are involved only at the end of the development process. The VIRTUES platform, however, was co-designed by patients, for patients, with firsthand understanding of the challenges.
“We interviewed cardiac patients across Canada and analyzed each of their care journeys, including their diagnosis and treatment experiences,” says Dr. Mary Runte, chair of the Patient Advisory Council at CANet.
The surveys revealed many gaps in Canada’s healthcare paradigm, including a lack of timely access to appropriate care in rural areas. Even when treated, patients did not have the home care needed to manage their conditions. Based on factors that came to light during the survey, CANet added the appropriate functionalities to the VIRTUES platform.
VIRTUES, CANet’s digital health platform acts as an all-knowing companion for cardiac patients, always there to answer their questions, support them, and offer the best treatment options and access to relevant caregivers. The platform’s database consists of comprehensive health data, input by patients, from multiple sources; analyzed and interpreted for patients and their caregivers.
Patients can access the platform from the comfort of their homes for guideline recommended treatment options and personalized support resources at any time. This information can also be provided to their healthcare providers of choice, no matter where they are located. The platform can be integrated with any device, including those implanted in the heart, to constantly monitor the status of the device as well as the health of the patient, sending notifications to caregivers and offering peace of mind for patients. With the VIRTUES platform at their side, patients can rest assured that they are always prepared to tackle any unexpected event.
CANet goes a step further in ensuring that all patient information is always secure in the VIRTUES platform. Its data-at-rest and in-transit encryption, firewall, and data backup and replication capabilities are built in alignment with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) and other Canadian healthcare privacy laws.
Enhancing Patient Experience
How CANet’s role is changing the status-quo for cardiac patients can be best explained through the experiences of Tim Westhaver, an arrhythmia patient who had to traverse the many gaps in the healthcare paradigm.
“I got tested with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) two decades ago, but getting the right care I needed for my condition has been an uphill battle, until recently,” says Westhaver.
When he first started feeling shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea, the general physicians he consulted couldn’t understand what was going on. However, when many of his family members succumbed to HCM, Westhaver pushed for and got a positive diagnosis, and got his children tested as well. Both had also inherited heart disease.
Without access to sufficient information regarding HCM and treatment options, making the smallest care decision was filled with uncertainties for Westhaver. It took him more than a year to find a surgeon willing toper form the implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) placement surgery.
One of the primary challenges Westhaver faced was traveling overnight to distant care centers for even routine tests. Relief came in the form of Dr. Ratika Parkash, a network investigator and associate scientific director at CANet. She understood Westhaver and his family’s condition and suggested that Westhaver join the VIRTUES platform.
CANet’s platform provided Westhaver with all the HCM-related information and support needed for him to take control of his treatment. ‘Patient engagement’ was not just a lip service anymore, but a reality. The VIRTUES platform informed Westhaver regarding the myriad of treatment and monitoring options available across Canada.
Westhaver is especially thrilled that he can track his ICDs through VIRTUES, including device statuses and notifications sent by the ICD to caregivers. This allows him to take a precautionary approach to health management and reduce the risk of an emergency.
“My only regret is that I did not come across CANet before. It would have saved me a lot of grief all these years,” he says. “Nevertheless, I am happy that arrhythmia patients across Canada now have a true organization like CANet to assist them in their care journey.”
A Ray of Hope during the COVID-19 Crisis
As the world continues to deal with the healthcare challenges of the pandemic, CANet is leveraging its expertise to alleviate the problems of COVID-19 patients. CANet has customized its VIRTUES platform to facilitate remote monitoring for patients, so they can get the care they need from the comfort and safety of their homes. The VIRTUES COVID-19 platform, which is web-accessible through digital devices, provides patients with tailored educational content regarding COVID-19 and connects them with caregivers when needed. By eliminating the need for patients to visit healthcare centers for milder symptoms, the platform is decreasing the exposure rates and letting essential front-line workers focus on more severe cases.
Next-Generation, Patient-Controlled Healthcare
CANet ensures that its digital health services are always aligned with the evolving patient requirements. It conducts regular virtual health-related studies, spearheaded by a patient working group to assure its digital health tools and medical content are always aligned with the unique needs of the patient population. CANet’s patient partners, take an active part in enhancing the delivery of educational material to patients.
Currently, CANet is focused on increasing diversity among its patient representation, which includes developing a Patient Advisory Council for the indigenous community and bringing better care to patient groups that have been historically marginalized in healthcare. Rather than assuming patient needs, CANet seeks firsthand patient insights and helps them in their care journey. By bringing to the fore advanced virtual communication technologies, CANet enables heart patients to get the relevant care they need no matter where they live. The organization, in this regard, is researching new approaches of leveraging sensors, voice recognition, cloud computing, and data analytics to facilitate remote diagnoses and disease tracking from the comfort of the patient’s home.
Going forward, CANet will take the competencies of its network beyond cardiac diseases and enhance healthcare accessibility for patients suffering from other chronic conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and lipid disorder. CANet aims to help patients manage their diseases, especially when they need to make crucial lifestyle changes. As patients seek to take control of their health, CANet is helping them do it effectively. CANet is making a difference, helping to save cardiac patients’ lives while encouraging more organizations to join the movement of patient-driven healthcare.
Source: Healthcare Tech Outlook