First national support program to address unmet needs of patients facing bone and joint surgery now available

    "Real-world insight from real-world patients"

    TORONTO, April 21 /CNW/ - Those facing surgery to their bones and joints
don't have to go it alone, thanks to a unique patient-to-patient support
program launching nationally today by the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
    Ortho Connect is a free, telephone-based peer support program that
addresses the unmet need of newly referred orthopaedic patients to talk to
someone who's been through the same surgery that they are facing. The program
works by connecting patients - often living in severe pain and with restricted
mobility - with trained volunteers who were once patients themselves for
real-world insight and practical experience.
    "Ortho Connect helps new patients to learn, understand and become
comfortable with their upcoming surgery," explains Angelique Berg, the
Foundation's CEO. "Knowing in advance what to expect - from their family
physician's referral through rehabilitation - and how critical their own
efforts will be through the process enables people to participate fully in
their treatment and recovery and, ultimately, to achieve better results."
    The Foundation is making Ortho Connect available for any type of bone and
joint surgery, from correction of clubfoot to hip and knee replacements. In
2005-2006, there were nearly 70,000 hip and knee replacements alone in
Canada(1). "Add surgeries to other bones and joints and the potential audience
for the program is well over 100,000," says Berg.
    "People have all kinds of non-medical questions about their upcoming
surgery, from how to prepare their home, to what to bring to the hospital, to
those of a personal nature they might be too uncomfortable to ask me", says
Dr. Stewart Wright, orthopaedic surgeon and Chair of the Foundation's Medical
and Scientific Review Committee. "Ortho Connect's patient-to-patient dynamic
makes it comfortable to ask any question, and having help to find the answer
enables the patient's confidence. Most healthcare professionals would agree
that the more comfortable a patient is and the more confident their outlook,
the better the results from their surgery will be."
    Ortho Connect volunteer, Joan Cunnington, helps with questions and
encourages patients to achieve the best possible results from their surgery. A
lifelong tennis enthusiast, osteoarthritis gradually reduced her mobility and
then a fall caused total disability. "It was devastating to me that I could
not play tennis any longer," she says. "My surgeon told me that the success of
my total knee replacement depended 20% on him, and 80% on me, so following the
surgery I persisted with physiotherapy, and eventually I returned to playing
tennis. Everyone's results will be different, but I use my experience to
emphasize that the recovery period is when patients should capitalize on their
surgeon's skill by persevering with rehabilitative exercises."
    According to Berg, the need for information and encouragement is
particularly acute in areas that are not as well serviced as major centres,
where patients must typically travel for orthopaedic treatment. Further, many
elderly patients referred for services live alone without family or other
supportive social networks. These patients stand to benefit the most from the
social support and connectedness aspects of the program.
    The Foundation is gearing up to meet the increased requests for Ortho
Connect services that will be driven by the skyrocketing demand for
orthopaedic surgery. The 70,000 hip and knee replacements performed in
2005-2006 represented a 10-year increase of 101% and an annual increase of 17%
    "Ortho Connect is another example of the Foundation responding to the
needs of bone and joint patients by creating credible, valuable programs that
serve patients as well as the professionals who treat them," says Dr. Peter
O'Brien, President of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association, the nation's
professional association for orthopaedic surgeons. O'Brien points out that the
program also satisfies an anticipated need as governments and health care
administrators organize to meet increased future demand stemming in part from
an aging population. "Ortho Connect can help first-time patients to learn
about the care path and to organize their thoughts for their first appointment
with their surgeon; this helps make the most of the patient's and the
professional's time.
    Dr. James Waddell, head of the Bone and Joint Decade's Canadian
secretariat, agrees. "In our examinations of what works to make orthopaedic
care delivery more efficient, support and education are important to encourage
the patient's active participation," says Waddell, "Ortho Connect is a
patient-focused resource that enables their understanding and engagement."
    The national launch of Ortho Connect is sponsored in part by Bayer
HealthCare. "Bayer HealthCare is deeply committed to providing Canadians with
the best medicines and investing in programs that help to improve the lives of
patients," said Anna Braeken, Head, General Medicine, Bayer Inc. "We are very
pleased to partner with the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation in this innovative
and most worthwhile endeavour."

    To access the program:

    Patients access Ortho Connect via the Foundation's website at or by calling the Foundation at 1-800-461-3639. Patients
complete a request for services form that details preferences in volunteer
matches, such as the type of surgery, languages spoken, age, gender,
geographic treatment area, and more for as many commonalities between patient
and volunteer as possible. The service is available for any type of
orthopaedic surgery and to people having surgery themselves, to caregivers or
loved ones of the patient, or parents of children undergoing treatment. After
receiving a request for services, the Foundation matches a volunteer to the
request within 48 hours.

    Founded in 1965, the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation is Canada's only
health charity dedicated solely to helping people build, maintain and restore
their bone and joint health. By advancing research, delivering public and
patient education, and fostering excellence of care, the Foundation strives to
keep Canadians moving pain-free, longer and stronger.

    (1) Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canadian Joint Replacement
        Registry (CJRR), 2007 Annual Report - Hip and Knee Replacements In
        Canada (Ottawa: CIHI, 2008).

For further information:

For further information: or to schedule an interview, please contact
Ellen Woodger ( at (416) 483-2358

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