VIRTUES digital health platform helping heart patients and their providers • Cardiovascular Network of Canada — CANet

VIRTUES digital health platform helping heart patients and their providers

The Cardiovascular Network of Canada (CANet) is transforming health care for patients across the country through a holistic, comprehensive digital platform.

“VIRTUES is a digital health platform for patients and caregivers to implement guidelines and expert-driven care,” says Dr. Anthony Tang, Scientific Director and CEO of CANet, the organization that initiated the VIRTUES project.

Tang, who is also one of many investigators in the development of VIRTUES, says their online system aims to empower people to learn more about their heart conditions and engage in the best management of their health issue together with their health-care providers.

VIRTUES consists of a series of Care Sets which focus on specific conditions. As patients may have co-morbidities, meaning when a patient has more than one disease or condition concurrently, several Care Sets can be enabled at the same time and work in tandem to ensure the best possible treatment. In addition, new Care Sets can be added at any time allowing continuous expansion of VIRTUES.

CANet Anthony Tang
Dr. Anthony Tang, Scientific Director and CEO of CANet

“VIRTUES will provide the health-care provider with the up-to-date medical information about the individual person and give patient specific recommendations with options to the providers to consider implementing the best care,” Tang explains. He adds the platform also provides personalized education on the rationale for the recommendations.

Anyone who has or may have a cardiovascular condition is welcome to participate, according to Tang.

“For example, a person with a previous heart attack or a person over the age of 40 and overweight, may have diabetes, etc.,” Tang says. “Patients can be enrolled through primary care, after attending to the emergency department or identified by health-care providers.”

Patients are given access to educational materials on specific topics to learn more about their heart condition and the treatment on the platform, Tang adds. The patient can review these materials at their own pace and share them with their family and caregivers.

CANet Ratika Parkash
Dr. Ratika Parkash, Associate Scientific Director at CANet

Dr. Ratika Parkash, Associate Scientific Director at CANet who has been working with Dr. Tang since CANet’s inception, says VIRTUES is the way of the future.

“Our health-care system in Canada isn’t sustainable in its current form, nor are patients receiving the care they need due to geographic barriers and access in remote regions,” Parkash notes. “VIRTUES provides the possibility of reaching everyone in Canada irrespective of location, ethnicity or other barriers.”

With the latest diagnostic and treatment recommendations according to guidelines and expert guidance, VIRTUES helps health-care providers to deliver the best care for their patients in a more rapid and efficient manner, says Parkash.

“It is challenging as a primary care professional to be abreast of the latest guidelines in all facets of medicine,” Parkash notes.  “VIRTUES helps with cardiovascular care, which remains one of the leading causes of death in Canada, and globally.”

The VIRTUES Cardiac Implantable Electronic Devices (CIED) Care Set is a project Parkash is leading, and it is the prototype for the other Care Set modules that have been developed within VIRTUES.

“We began developing the CIED Care Set in 2018 and have now enrolled close to 2,000 patients across Canada to enhance the care for patients with cardiac implantable electronic devices (pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators),” says Parkash.

During the pandemic, the VIRTUES COVID-19 Care Set was developed to monitor patients with COVID-19 who were isolating at home. The Care Set helped to reduce stress for COVID-19 positive patients, decreased exposure to communities, and helped protect essential front-line health care workers from the virus.

Patients expressed that “[The platform] is simple, effective, and informative. The follow-up calls from doctors are immensely helpful to understand this virus and to know what to expect. Therefore, it reduces anxiety. Thank you to all medical professionals and support staff for their time and genuine care.”

screen heart healthWith the recent rollout and enrollment of patients into the latest Antithrombotic Management (Blood Thinning) Care Set, information gathered from patients on the platform will be used as part of a national study. The research will compare how VIRTUES may be able to improve care, improve patient outcomes and improve health-care providers’ efficiency, according to Tang.

Parkash says the CIED Care Set study is almost complete and final results are expected in a couple of years to determine how it has helped with CIED care.

“Once we have been able to show benefit with this platform, we hope that health- care systems will support it and integration with EMRs can be done,” Parkash says. “Our first step is to prove its value to patients and health-care practitioners.

Dr. Allan Skanes, principal investigator for one of the studies – specifically on Atrial Fibrillation (AF) – says the project has the potential to improve the implementation of patient-specific guideline therapy across cardiovascular care, including AF.

“Patients will be engaged from the beginning to include and integrate their health data, and will receive personalized communications about their therapy,” Skanes says. He adds recommendations will be passed along to primary care and other health-care providers that the patient identifies.

“Our goal is to improve and optimize patient-specific guideline-based therapy for as many patients as we can reach – ideally across Canada.”

Medical information is accelerating at a rapid pace thanks to excellent research, innovation and discovery, Tang notes. But he says it is virtually impossible for anyone to know them all and to keep this information in their head.

“Guidelines are written to cover the breadth and depth of the subject, but are very difficult to assimilate and use in daily busy practice,” Tang says. “This digital tool hopes to bridge the gap to aid health-care providers to deliver the best care efficiently and patients to obtain the best care with better health outcomes.”

Source: National Post