Online tool connects kidney patients with access to their care

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Ontarians living with chronic kidney disease will soon be able to actively self-manage their illness using technology as part of a new patient portal in development between Grand River Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences, University Health Network and Canada Health Infoway. Much like an online banking website, a ‘portal’ is a web-based personal health application that can integrate with a patient’s electronic health record, providing patients with self-management tools for their disease and improving communication interactions with their health care teams.

“I am a firm believer in patient education. An educated and aware patient tends to be involved and invested in his/her care,” said Dr. Judith Miller, Deputy Chief, Division of Nephrology, University Health Network. “This patient portal will promote knowledge and awareness of disease processes and treatments, and should translate into better adherence to care plans. In turn, this may result in decreased morbidity and may delay progression to end stage renal disease requiring renal replacement therapy.”

Patient self-management, in combination with early intervention of specialists and multi-disciplinary health care teams, can delay the progression of kidney disease for patients in the pre-dialysis phase. The slowed progression can result in improved quality of life for patients, reduced wait lists for dialysis and a lower cost impact on the health care system. The average annual cost of treatment for patients in pre-dialysis is $2,000 compared to $50,000 in dialysis.

The patient portal will make it possible for patients to set personal goals for self care, monitor symptoms and side effects of their disease helping to improve management of their chronic condition and reduce unplanned visits to doctors or emergency rooms. In addition, the portal serves to facilitate communication between patients and providers by providing timely access to medication summaries and lab results, accompanied by information to help patients understand what the results mean.

“By giving patients information at their fingertips, they will be less likely to make calls to specialists for information, test results and prescription advice – this helps to relieve pressure on specialists…” said Richard Alvarez, President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway. Infoway has invested approximately $2 million in the portal.

With the support of the Shared Information Management Services (SIMS) Partnership, a shared information management and technology service that supports the health care information needs of University Health Network and eight other health care organizations in the Greater Toronto Area, the chronic kidney disease patient portal leverages Grand River Hospital’s cancer care portal, My Care Source¨. The portal also leverages a clinical care tool for symptom management developed by Cancer Care Ontario.

“We have already seen the benefit of providing patients with the necessary tools to self-manage their care through the successful launch of My Care Source¨,” said Claudette DeLenardo, Director of e-Health Technologies for Grand River Hospital. “This is a step forward in utilizing technology to enhance care for patients with chronic kidney disease.”

As many as 1,500 kidney patients served by the Local Health Information Networks (LHINs) of Waterloo/Wellington and Toronto Central will benefit initially from the portal. Patients will be able to access the portal through a link found on both the Grand River Hospital and University Health Network websites, authenticating their identity through a secure login process.

The chronic kidney disease patient portal is scheduled to launch in March 2008.