Innovative program at LHSC motivates transplant patients to exercise online


For Immediate Release

April 26, 2016


(LONDON, Ontario) – While patients waiting for a life-saving organ or tissue transplant are often quite ill, one innovative program at the Multi-Organ Transplant Program (MOTP) at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is helping ensure patients are as strong and healthy as possible before their surgery.

The TONE program – Transplant ONline Exercise – encourages patients who are waiting at home for their transplant to exercise via videoconference two or three times each week with an MOTP physiotherapist. This program is a first of its kind for transplant centres in Canada.

“The fitter transplant patients are before surgery, the better the outcomes tend to be,” says Nancy Howes, an MOTP physiotherapist for 20 years. LHSC offers daily exercise classes in the transplant unit for patients waiting for their surgery, but Howes and her colleague Tracy Fuller found that when patients went home to continue waiting for surgery, their motivation to continue exercising waned.

“What we were finding was that while we can teach them the importance of exercise and send them home with a copy of the program, once they left our site their ability to maintain an exercise program deteriorated,” says Howes.

Recognizing that technology was readily available to many of their patients, Howes developed the TONE program to provide telerehabilitation, encouraging patients who are at home waiting for their transplant to exercise via videoconference with Howes and Fuller two or three times a week.

By joining the MOTP physiotherapy classes virtually, patients can perform their exercises with supervision and encouragement. The TONE program provides patients with a loaned iPad so they can connect to the classes via Skype.

Two years ago Ellen Desrosiers was waiting for a heart transplant, but before she would be strong enough for that surgery she would require an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) to ensure her heart and other organs were healthy enough for transplant. While at LHSC to prepare for her LVAD surgery, Desrosiers says she was introduced to the MOTP physiotherapy classes.

“I was extremely unhealthy and overweight. When I started these classes and realized there were others in the same boat as me, it helped to motivate me.”

After her LVAD surgery, Desrosiers returned home to await her heart transplant and was able to continue participating in her physiotherapy classes via Skype three times a week. “Having this connection was incredibly motivating,” she says. “When I’m at home by myself it would have been hard to stay diligent about exercising but these classes kept me in contact with the hospital, and I knew that if I had a problem I could have it addressed in real time.”

TONE program participants are expressing enthusiasm on their progress, exercising several days a week and reporting improved tolerance and progression. Howes says that she and her colleagues will begin to study the specific health benefits of those who participate against those who don’t.

About London Health Science Centre
London Health Sciences Centre has been at the forefront of medicine in Canada for 141 years and offers the broadest range of specialized clinical services in Ontario. Building on the traditions of its founding hospitals to provide compassionate care in an academic teaching setting, London Health Sciences Centre is home to Children’s Hospital, University Hospital, Victoria Hospital, the Kidney Care Centre, two family medical centres, and two research institutes – Children’s Health Research Institute and Lawson Health Research Institute. As a leader in medical discovery and health research, London Health Sciences Centre has a history of over 65 international and national firsts and attracts top clinicians and researchers from around the world. As a regional referral centre, London Health Sciences Centre cares for the most medically complex patients including critically injured adults and children in southwestern Ontario and beyond. The hospital’s nearly 15,000 staff, physicians, students and volunteers provide care for more than one million patient visits a year. For more information visit


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Corporate Communications and Public Relations
London Health Sciences Centre
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