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SciFi Technology Delivers Meat and Potatoes Value
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<h4>As the rural population ages a vast array of <br>healthcare services must be made available.</h4>

As the rural population ages a vast array of
healthcare services must be made available.

SciFi Technology Delivers Meat and Potatoes Value

The Quality of Life in Rural Manitoba is being improved Today by Tomorrow's Technologies

Marshall McLuhan said it best, “The future is here now. It is just not equally distributed.”

Dr. Ray Postuma had a vision years ago. As one of a select few pediatric surgeons with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, he often saw distressed and tired families coping not only with their children’s illness, but also with hours of travel and inconvenience that any other family living close to the City of Winnipeg would never have to endure. From this vision came MBTelehealth, a network of twenty-four (24) sites, twenty (20) of which are situated in rural and remote Manitoba. With a CHIPP (Canadian Health Infostructure Partnership Program) grant, and hard work of a team of dedicated individuals, the MBTelehealth Network now ensures delivery of health care and information at the point of care, right in the patient’s home community, in familiar hospital surroundings, close to family and friends. As the rural population ages and retires in local communities, a vast array of health services must be available. This in turn creates enormous economic spin-off as younger individuals take on the responsibility of delivering these services. An increase in health and educational opportunities for health professionals may significantly contribute to the communities’ long-term economic sustainability. Physician and staff recruitment and retention is also positively impacted by this technology. Many rural physicians are recruited from other countries, such as South Africa, and the ability for these physicians to interact with others in the province, the country, and throughout the world, may promote long-term commitment to health delivery in rural and remote communities.
The quality of life in Northern Manitoba is being improved today by tommorrow’s technologies.
There are many examples to illustrate the importance of telehealth technology to Manitoba communities within the MBTelehealth Network. The following are but a few:

* The economic impact of MBTelehealth is evident in the community of Churchill as indicated by Brenda Langevin, CEO of Churchill Regional Health Authority.Several times a month, the Churchill RHA Northern Patient Transportation committee meets to discuss the upcoming scheduled medical travel. The members are well aware of the high cost of air transportation to access specialized services, but realize that this is a reality that comes with living in a remote northern community. The cost is also shouldered by the patient and/or escort, who miss days of employment, must find someone to care for their dependents and property while they are gone, and have the extra expense of city transportation and accommodations. Added to this is the stress of air travel unpredictability, mainly due to weather, which can result in unexpected travel delays and unwanted destinations. “The arrival of telehealth in our community has been a welcome alternative”, says Ms. Langevin. “ For example, parents can take their child to see the dermatologist, pediatrician or plastic surgeon, now only a fifteen-minute walk from home to the telehealth room. Pre-surgical questions are answered and counseling and support can be obtained in their own community. One
<h4>A Beautiful Northern Manitoba Sunset</h4>

A Beautiful Northern Manitoba Sunset

telehealth appointment for a child can save $1900 in travel costs but the benefits to local families is just as valuable.” The Churchill RHA is currently building a new videoconference and clinical room specifically designed for the delivery of these services.

* “Having a series of sites located within one regional health authority may help to redistribute sparse health dollars to direct patient care”, reports Linda Kulkarni, VP Community Health for the Parkland Regional Health Authority. In the Parkland Health Region, access to specialty physician services is a significant challenge for consumers and primary care providers alike. The Parkland Region is located in central western Manitoba, covering a geographic area of approximately 40,000 square kilometers that extends north to south from the 53rd parallel to the Riding Mountain National Park. Health care challenges in the region include high rates of diabetes and respiratory illness and growing rates of chronic disease among the high numbers of elderly and Aboriginal people. A substantive range of health care needs are met within the region, thanks to the broad range of primary health care services available. However, access to specialty physician services continues to be a challenge due to vast distances within the region. This situation is beginning to change with the development of telehealth sites in Dauphin, and a second site in Swan River, located two hours north. The telehealth program has resulted in enhanced access to specialty physician services in Winnipeg and Brandon, and to continuing education for physicians and other professionals. An unexpected outcome of the service, and one that has become among the most significant is the ‘within region’ link between Dauphin and Swan River. Traffic between the two sites includes access for residents in the north to specialty physician services located in Dauphin, and meetings of Parkland Regional Health Authority advisory councils, quality teams and program staff. Telepsychiatry within the region has become the most active use for the system. Thanks to the leadership of Dr. S. Sandhu, Chief of Psychiatry, the telehealth has become the vehicle to provide the majority of psychiatric consultations to residents in the north from the Dauphin site. A team approach has been important in this shift in care delivery. Community mental health workers assess clients for appropriateness for the service and provide support to clients as required. The savings in travel time and costs to residents and to the psychiatrist are most welcome. The Psychiatrist’s time otherwise spent traveling can now be spent in psychiatric consultations with patients and staff. The efficiencies created for the psychiatrist have enabled him to manage an expanded caseload. Without the telehealth system, clients with mental health needs would experience extended wait times.

As the network enters its fourth year, regional health authorities throughout the province are realizing the financial benefits of MBTelehealth and are including expansion of sites and access to the network in strategic planning. Growth in telehealth throughout Manitoba is a good indicator of how this technology is helping to improve access to health care and increase economic stability for Manitobans regardless of where they live in the province.

By Lise Pinsonneault, MB Telehealth, Ashern Site Coordinator


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