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Digital Health Week: Using technology to assist with transition to adult care

Transitioning from an adolescent to a young adult can be an exciting and challenging time. As people with cystic fibrosis (CF) approach late adolescence and early adulthood, they typically take on increasing responsibility for their care. It is during late adolescence that young people with CF formally transition from paediatric to adult care.

Transition from paediatric to adult care is an important milestone for young people with CF, and one that often has been part of the conversation between patients, families and healthcare teams since diagnosis. In adolescence, transition is typically addressed more regularly during clinic visits in order to help prepare the patient and family. Transition from a paediatric care team that is familiar and well-liked can understandably bring with it some fears and apprehension, along with excitement. For those in a rural environment where access to an adult clinic requires additional travel, these practical concerns are also an issue.

The Regina paediatric CF clinic is using telehealth to address practical concerns related to transition, improving access to its’ nearest adult clinic in Saskatoon (approximately 250 km from Regina) for patients and families. Barbara Geran, Nurse Coordinator for the CF clinic, explains that the clinic has recently incorporated telehealth to smooth the transition process for patients.

Ms. Geran cited her experience working with a recent patient who was approaching his 18th birthday. Prior to his birthday, the patient met with Ms. Geran and the rest of the healthcare team to discuss his transition to the Saskatoon adult clinic. Ms. Geran connected with the healthcare team at the adult clinic to create a plan for the patient’s transition.

The two clinics came up with a plan to host a video call. Ms. Geran worked with the adult clinic, sharing the patient’s records and setting up a private call between the healthcare teams at both clinics to discuss the patient’s history. Then, a call was hosted between the patient and his new healthcare team.

“Had we just made an appointment for him to go up there [to the Saskatoon adult clinic], I don’t think he would have made it,” says Ms. Geran.

The patient gave positive feedback about his experience with telehealth. “It wasn’t overwhelming or intimidating,” Ms. Geran said. “He’s grown up with us and there’s a lot of history there, and a lot of trust. I think he felt supported having us there.”

The patient will eventually make the full transition to the adult clinic, but for now, thanks in part to technological advances, he was able to sit down with both his healthcare teams to plan for his future.