Being diagnosed with heart failure was a major event for Vincent*. “The walls were closing in. I was worried about going for a walk, going to work,” he recalls.

A complicated and often misunderstood condition, heart failure affects 600,000 Canadians and is growing in frequency, according to the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Heart failure — a condition in which the heart is unable to pump effectively — includes a range of symptoms that may send patients to the hospital repeatedly, including fluid accumulation, fatigue, and trouble breathing.

In fact, it is the third most common reason for hospitalization, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, behind respiratory disease and heart attacks. Fortunately, there is support available for patients looking to manage the disease on their own.

Vincent, who lives in southwestern Ontario, signed up for Telehomecare, an intensive six-month coaching and patient monitoring program for people with heart failure or progressive lung disease. Telehomecare is offered by Ontario’s health regional authorities — Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) — in most parts of the province, supported by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN). OTN is a government-funded not-for-profit dedicated to enhancing patient access to care.

The remote monitoring program is free to eligible patients, with funding provided by the LHINs, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and project investment from Canada Health Infoway. It provides patients with a blood oxygen monitor, blood pressure cuff, and weight scale, all of which are connected to a computer tablet that sends off data to a registered nurse.

Vincent says he appreciates the peace of mind provided by the weekly tele-coaching administered by Telehomecare to help him achieve his health and life goals. “Heart failure can’t be cured, but we know people can have much better lives when they are motivated and supported to make changes,” says Dr. Ed Brown, the CEO at OTN. “These can include adhering to medication schedules, engaging in exercise and healthy eating, and learning to recognize triggers that indicate a worsening of their conditons.”

Telehomecare has been shown to reduce hospital admissions and ER use by over 60 percent. It is just one of the programs offered by OTN and other health system innovators in Ontario to support patient self-management — others are being piloted to benefit more chronic disease patients.

“I’m looking forward to seeing my granddaughter graduate,” says Vincent. “I booked our 40th wedding anniversary where my wife and I will renew our vows. Last year I wouldn’t even have thought about that. Telehomecare was life-altering.”

Patients’, or their loved ones, can find out if the program is available in their region and refer themselves via