Later this week, the first Telehealth consultation will take place at the Ladysmith Community Health Care Centre, signalling the arrival of a new form of medical care delivery.
Telehealth uses videoconferencing technology to connect patients to health care services, regardless of where they live. Using Telehealth, patients can see and talk to a health care provider over a secure and private network to make appropriate and timely health care decisions.
The Telehealth room at the Ladysmith Community Health Centre opened Dec. 18, and it has already been used for education among health care providers, according to Telehealth co-ordinator Rhonda Brown with Island Health.
The first official client consultation is booked for Friday, Jan. 24.
Brown says they’ve been working on bringing Telehealth to Ladysmith for just under a year.
“The promise was last year that we would have it in early this year,” she said. “We would have been able to do it sooner if funding was available from the community, or if we waited, we could put it in our budget. So we were able to put it in our budget.”
Island Health provides Telehealth services in cardiology, oncology, thoracic health, mental health and substance abuse, eating disorders, Down syndrome, genetics consultations, pathology (the digital delivery of lab services), opthalmology, stroke treatment, home monitoring (self management and support to select patients living with heart failure), and geriatric psychiatry.
Island Health is still securing clinical support for telecardiology at this time, but Brown says it will be available in Ladysmith in the next couple of months.
“That’s the only little piece left, and that’s underway right now,” she said.
Brown sees many benefits with Telehealth — the biggest being the way it brings patients and specialists closer.
“It enables patients to connect with specialty care without having to travel from their home community,” she said. “It really saves on time and cost for the patient and their family members.”
Telehealth reduces the time, cost and stress of travelling, and Brown says it means patients don’t have to cancel their appointments if the weather is bad.
“A lot of times, even just recently when we had major windstorms and they had to cancel ferries, we were able to do consultations with specialists in Vancouver so [patients’] care could continue,” she said. “Often, care is on a continuum. If one appointment is missed, that impacts like a domino on the rest. Telehealth allows that to continue, regardless of weather.”
Brown feels it’s also beneficial for fostering collaboration within the medical community.
Senior health is one of the programs available with Telehealth, so it can benefit the senior community as well, noted Brown.
“It’s care in the community, which is what Island Health’s goal is — the care focus is client focus, keeping people close to the people who support them,” said Brown. “We’re supporting the Island Health vision that way. It’s a great team to work with.
“There is so much more that is coming with Telehealth services within Island Health. Every step made is just going to bring that specialty care closer to home, which is a really good thing.”
For more information about Telehealth, click here.