From: Reuters
Published May 28, 2008 09:08 AM

Program provides lung rehab remotely

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A program that uses video-teleconferencing, the internet and other technologies to deliver lung rehabilitation remotely to people with the chronic lung disease COPD who live in rural areas helps them breathe more easily and get more out of life, researchers have found.

The Telehealth program shows similar results to standard in-person lung rehabilitation, Tina Jourdain, a respiratory therapist who is involved with the program, told the American Thoracic Society's 2008 international conference in Toronto.

The Telehealth program is an extension of the Breathe Easy Pulmonary Rehabilitation program based in Edmonton, Canada. According to Jourdain, referrals to the program have increased over the years, but many rural patients live too far from respiratory centers to benefit from it. To expand access, the Telehealth Pulmonary Rehabilitation program was launched in 2005, she explained in a statement.

With the Telehealth program, people with chronic lung disease "see" lung specialists and therapists and engage in a guided exercise program remotely. Two days per week patients attend educational sessions led by Telehealth at their local healthcare center and perform appropriate exercises supervised by a respiratory therapist or physical therapist at any community center with exercise space.

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Jourdain and colleagues compared results achieved in the in-person program with those achieved by 113 rural patients who used the Telehealth program for 8 weeks.

The 86 patients who completed the 8-week program experienced significant improvements in the distance they could walk in 12 minutes and in quality of life, Jourdain reported.

"The results were similar between local programs and the Telehealth program," she said.

"Many patients are hesitant to exercise without supervision out of the fear of 'doing more harm than good' when they experience shortness of breath," she explained. "This results in the patient becoming more sedentary and deconditioned."

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," Jourdain said.

According to the Canadian Thoracic Society, only 98 pulmonary rehabilitation facilities exist in Canada, with the capacity to serve just 1.2 percent of Canadians with COPD. Because many Canadian COPD patients live in rural areas, expanding the reach of such programs is important, researchers note.

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