By Dan Walton

Pioneer Staff

A new web-based program designed to increase the effectiveness of each hospital visit is promising to improve health care for rural residents living with multiple chronic diseases in the Columbia Valley and across B.C.

MyHealthConnect, an experimental program designed by Scott Lear, a professor at Simon Fraser University, is reaching out to patients across rural B.C. It requires users to record daily data that relates to their disease.

The information is observed by healthcare professionals at central locations, who can detect irregularities within their patients before scheduled checkups, and react accordingly.

By closely co-ordinating doctors and patients, MyHealthConnect aims to prevent disease progression, eliminate the need for some patient travel, and allow healthcare staff to be available for more urgent matters.

To take part, a patient needs to have daily Internet access, to which they initially submit pre-existing health conditions, and then add data on an ongoing basis. They also need to be living with at least two chronic illnesses and outside of a large urban centre.

Patients participating in the study stand not only to see benefits to their own health, but will also be helping to evaluate the effectiveness of MyHealthConnect.

The study began in September 2011, and as of this August, nearly half of the goal of 318 participants has been reached, according to the B.C. Alliance on Telehealth Policy and Research. Those interested in participating in the study can contact Scott Lear at 604-682-2344 extension 62778, or by email at [email protected].

Closer to home, another study is being spearheaded by Chisel Peak physician Francois Louw.

In his effort to increase available treatments for people living with temporomandibular (TM) dysfunction, Dr. Louw is treating those participating in his trial with hypertonic dextrose injections.

There is scientific merit in looking at that

approach, Dr. Louw told The Pioneer. Its very safe and its easy to do.

TM joints are found on each side of the jaw and are responsible for oral mobility, and dysfunction can lead to teeth grinding and difficulty with speech. So far, Dr. Louw has recruited 20 patients and is hoping to gather more.

I think its a bit of a stretch to try and get 40 (patients from the valley), but I tried anyway, he said. Its not going too badly; after a few months I have 20 patients, and if I can get to 30, that would be fantastic.

To participate in the study, patients are required to bear a certain threshold of discomfort.

For people with significant pain experienced when they bite into an apple or speak. If ten is terrible pain and zero is no pain, patients should be experiencing more than five out of ten pain.

The study is being overseen by the University of British Columbia, he said, and only a few treatment options are currently available to treat the condition.

Sometimes those mouth guards dont work well, and I dont want to put people on pain medications, he said.