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Canada's TELEHEALTH program improved conditions for patients in rural and remote areas

THURSDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- A program that uses video conferencing, the Internet and other technologies to provide pulmonary rehabilitation helps improve the condition of chronic lung disease patients in rural and remote areas, according to a Canadian study.

"The Edmonton-based Breathe Easy Pulmonary Rehabilitation program has been providing services to patients with chronic lung disease (CLD) for over 15 years. Referrals have increased over the years, [but] many rural patients have been unable to access our program due to its location," Tina Jourdain, a respiratory therapist with the program, said in a prepared statement.

To help patients living in rural areas of northern and central Alberta, the TELEHEALTH program was implemented in 2005. TELEHEALTH enables these patients to consult with pulmonologists, respiratory therapists and to take part in a guided exercise program that uses video and communications technologies.

In this study, Jourdain and her colleagues analyzed the results achieved by 113 rural patients who used the TELEHEALTH program for eight weeks. All the patients were evaluated by a pulmonologist via TELEHEALTH at the start of the study.

On two days a week, the patients attended TELEHEALTH-administered educational sessions at their local health care center and exercised under direct supervision of a respiratory or physical therapist at a community center with exercise space.

Patients who completed the eight-week program showed significant improvements in how far they could walk in 12 minutes and in quality of life.

"The results were similar between local programs and the TELEHEALTH program," Jourdain said.

The findings were to be presented May 20 at the American Thoracic Society's International Conference, in Toronto.

"Many patients are hesitant to exercise without supervision out of the fear of 'doing more harm than good' when they experience shortness of breath. This results in the patient becoming more sedentary and deconditioned," Jourdain said. "With the TELEHEALTH program, the patient is monitored and builds knowledge and self-confidence to do exercise regularly, which in turn improves their physical condition and their quality of life as well."

More information

The Canadian Lung Association has more about lung diseases.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, May 19, 2008

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