North Queensland patients recovering from heart procedures are now able to access rehabilitation care and monitoring from home, no matter where in the region they live.
Mater Private Hospital Townsville has introduced virtual cardiac rehabilitation services for patients unable to attend face to face sessions due to distance or lack of transport.
The virtual rehabilitation includes two video consultations a week with a specialist clinician complemented by a phone application developed by Queensland scientific technology company Cardihab, which tracks patients’ heart rate, blood pressure, steps walked and more.
Home Hill cane farmer Stephen Fabbro (60) said he was unlikely to have completed rehabilitation if it required driving up to see a clinician in person.
“I’m getting to the age now where I don’t feel like driving up to Townsville every week – locally our sugar cane crushing season is only 75 per cent complete so it can be hard to find time to travel and complete sessions,” Mr Fabbro said.
“Mater were fantastic, I cannot talk highly enough of the staff who looked after me when I was admitted and the ones who hosted the virtual rehabilitation sessions. I went in for a general check up, however the doctor discovered artery blockages which required heart surgery.
“The rehabilitation team visited me after my surgery and mentioned the opportunity to complete rehabilitation virtually, loaded the applications on to my phone, and everything was good to go. I would not have known that it was in pilot stage at that point, everything was delivered perfectly and I felt well taken care of. I’m back to working on the farm and performing the tasks that I was performing prior to the procedure thanks to this program.”
Mater Private Hospital Townsville Exercise Physiologist Shaun Whiley said prior to the pilot program, participation rates for cardiac rehabilitation in regional areas was low.
“The virtual rehabilitation program began following our Allied Health Manager and I identifying that a large number of cardiac patients from areas outside of Townsville would not adhere to any sort of rehabilitation or care plan until their six week consultation with a cardiologist,” Mr Whiley said.
“Rehabilitation is vitally important, not only because research suggests that those who do not rehabilitate following heart procedures have a higher chance of being rehospitalised, but so these people can return to their normal lives: we are from a region where everyone is very physical and social in work, social and family settings.
“Knowing that these sessions have given patients the confidence to return to normal following what can be in many cases very significant procedures is why cardiac rehabilitation is so important.
“Delivering virtual rehabilitation means regional and remote communities do not have to drive two or three hours to access a clinician. Participants to date have been from Burdekin, Charters Towers, Ravenshoe and more – if there is anyone who cannot access cardiac rehabilitation in their region, from Mackay up to the Cape and West to the border, Mater is here.”