This is the future of health care, and it was because of his [Donald Kaye’s] generosity that we are able to keep pushing forward.”
— Dr. Alim Hirji
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is terminal within two to five years. Fortunately, the disease’s symptoms are becoming increasingly manageable — when a patient is finally accurately diagnosed.
“A physician may not recognize the symptoms of ALS since it is so rare. A slow diagnosis impacts how soon a patient can begin treatment at an ALS clinic,” explains Dr. Wendy Johnston, Medical Director of the ALS clinic at the University of Alberta Hospital’s Kaye Edmonton Clinic. For her, the pipeline from diagnosis to treatment can be challenging for patients to navigate, delaying when treatment can begin. It isn’t enough that we can diagnose the disease when it acts so quickly. We need to be able to act quickly, too.
”When patients gain clear diagnoses, they can act faster to begin treatments and participate in drug trials and studies — they can improve their life expectancy.” This was the idea at the heart of Dr. Johnston’s research proposal, which was awarded a grant through the University Hospital Foundation’s (UHF) Kaye Competition in 2020. Now, Dr. Johnston, in collaboration with the University of Alberta Hospital’s Continuous Improvement Program and Physician Learning Program at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, is working to improve the odds for ALS patients and educate physicians on what to look for.
The current standard wasn’t enough for respirologist Dr. Alim Hirji, either. Pulmonary patients that have difficulty receiving enough oxygen require breathing equipment at all times. Unfortunately, patients can knock their equipment loose in their sleep. After seeing firsthand the dangers patients can face, Dr. Hirji knew he needed to find a new way to protect the high-risk patients in the pulmonary ward.
Thanks to funding from the UHF’s Kaye Competition, Dr. Hirji’s team, including the University of Alberta Hospital’s Continuous Improvement Program, in collaboration with the University Health Network in Toronto, developed a telemonitoring program on the pulmonary ward at the University of Alberta Hospital.
With a patient’s consent, portable cameras are wheeled into a patient’s room to allow a remote attendant to continuously monitor up to eight patients at once. The video feed is also made available at the nursing station so nurses can virtually check on patients. The program has been a success, significantly reducing accidental deaths, medical emergency calls and nighttime falls. It is so successful that it was awarded a grant to allow the program to grow across the University of Alberta Hospital and the province.
“We spoke with patients and caregivers, and time and time again we heard that family members could go home and sleep soundly at night knowing their loved one was being monitored,” shares Dr. Hirji. The Kaye Competition, a partnership between the University of Alberta Hospital, the University of Alberta Hospital’s Kaye Edmonton Clinic and the UHF, continues to support life-saving innovation, thanks to the generosity of Mr. Donald Kaye, who passed away in February, 2022.
“Mr. Kaye’s legacy continues through every project the competition funds. It continues through this telemonitoring project and will impact the lives of many Albertans who enter a hospital,” says Dr. Hirji. “This is the future of health care, and it was because of his generosity that we are able to keep pushing forward.”