For 20 years, Breathe Easy has served as the main pulmonary rehabilitation program in Edmonton. Operated out of the G.F. MacDonald Lung Health Centre, in the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre (EGCCC), it helps patients to become more knowledgeable and more active. 


It isn’t always easy for rural patients to come into Edmonton for pulmonary rehab and education. Currently, at any given time, about one dozen rural sites in Alberta are using the Breathe Easy telehealth program. 


Patients head to their local health centre, such as a physical therapy clinic. The patient has his or her appointment with the pulmonary specialist at EGCCC via a telehealth web video. The local health clinician, who has been previously trained, attends the session with the patient, to provide further clarification as required.


“Clinicians see this as great value, and telehealth is a valuable component for these patients,” says Dr. Mike Stickland, Lead, G.F. MacDonald Lung Health Centre, and director of Breathe Easy. “They’re grateful, they feel confident and they’re able to take care of their health.”


Now, with a $180,000 commitment from Covenant Foundation, the program’s innovative telehealth component will be expanded to serve more clients in rural sites across Alberta, and eventually, across Canada.

Stickland says this telehealth platform is urgently needed across the province, and the country. Fortunately, the specialists at the Centre are up to the task.


“We’re a recognized expert in delivering pulmonary rehab, and we’re seen as a leader, internationally, in delivering this to rural areas,” Stickland says. “Our vision is that on the national level people will be able to use the resources that we set up for them, and we’re all doing the same curriculum, with the foundation of it here at our Centre.” 


Stickland’s team is currently developing new pulmonary health curriculum, working with McGill University and the University of Toronto. The new education modules and website are more focused on behavioural change and learning styles.


“Patients will have more accountability and more homework. The onus is on them, with a stronger focus on personal goals once he or she has left the program,” says Stickland. “We’re better arming our patients to face their disease.”