New Interactive Digital Tool Improves Access to Patient Care

Skylar Christian
Skylar Christian is the Lead Nurse Practitioner for remote patient monitoring at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC).

A new digital tool is helping to keep surgical patients connected to their health care providers from the comfort of their home.

Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) is the first hospital in Northwestern Ontario to offer a new digital patient engagement tool for patients undergoing surgery. It provides an interactive, step-by-step guide to help patients prepare for their procedure and recover faster afterwards. The patient or their caregiver can access the tool on any wi-fi connected smartphone, tablet or computer.

“Engaging and monitoring patients remotely allows us to deliver safer perioperative care during the COVID-19 pandemic – regardless of where patients live,” said Caroline Fanti, Director, Regional Surgical Services at TBRHSC. “Smart health technology aligns well with our mission to deliver a quality patient experience that is responsive to the needs of the population of Northwestern Ontario.”

Since launching in November 2020, over 170 patients have benefited from using the digital tool, with 91% of those surveyed recommending their experience to others, and 87.5% saying the program helps them feel less anxious before surgery.

The digital tool enables safer surgical transitions from hospital to home during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It enables the safe discharge of patients earlier and minimizes in-person home care services by guiding patients from pre-op preparation through post-surgery recovery with personalized education, progress-tracking and remote monitoring. Upon discharge from the hospital, patients are able to report their pain scores, symptoms, and share wound photos from their own devices, enabling them to be monitored by the care team.

TBRHSC is rolling out this digital tool broadly for patients across many surgical programs, including Hip and Knee Replacement, Spine, Shoulder, Urology, Colorectal, Bariatrics and Thoracics.

“Our patients are very happy with this technology and the connectivity it provides”, said Skylar Christian, Lead Nurse Practitioner for remote patient monitoring at TBRHSC. “Being able to use the dashboards to monitor what patients are reporting is enabling us to follow-up more quickly. Patients can return home sooner with immediate, constant access to the information and support they need throughout their journey.”

This initiative received provincial funding to enhance the pandemic response through appropriate virtual care options, which are key in ensuring continuity of health services while preventing the spread of COVID-19.