Canadian Society of Telehealth

February 28, 2005 09:00 ET

Canadian Society of Telehealth supports Health Council Report

The Canadian Society of Telehealth (CST) supports the 2004 annual report recently released by the Health Council of Canada, entitled: Health Care Renewal in Canada: Accelerating Change. Attention: Health/Medical Editor, Tech/Telecomm Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 28, 2005) - Issue

The Canadian Society of Telehealth (CST) supports the findings and conclusions of the 2004 annual report recently released by the Health Council of Canada, entitled: Health Care Renewal in Canada: Accelerating Change. Further, it is our opinion that telehealth could play a significant role in addressing several key challenges affecting the health care system identified in the report

Background

The Health Council of Canada was established by First Ministers to monitor and report on the 2003 Health Care Accord on Health Care Renewal which was devoted to improving health care services. Acting as an impartial observer, the Health Council intends that this annual report begin a dialogue with Canadians on the renewal of the health care system and the health of Canadians. The annual report presents a number of key findings on challenges to the health care system which impact on the health status of Canadians, and provides suggestions on how to accelerate progress in overcoming these obstacles.

According to a definition provided by Health Canada, telehealth "is the process of using information and communications technology to deliver health, information, services and expertise over short and long distances". The Canadian Society of Telehealth is a national, non-profit organization formed in 1998. Members of the CST include a diverse mix of individuals such as health care providers, researchers, government representatives and academics, as well as corporations such as private companies and manufacturers, and public organizations such as hospitals and clinics. Since its inception, the CST has focused its efforts on educating the public and health care consumers about the significant contribution that telehealth can make to the resolution of key issues such as access, cost, waiting lists, and the education and retention of health care professionals.

Relevant Factors

The following is a list of challenges to Canada's publicly-funded health care system that were identified in the Health Council's annual report, and how the CST believestelehealth could play a role:

· Health Disparities - The Council concluded that major health disparities exist in the health status of Canadians due to socio-economic factors such as income, education and jobs. Telehealth has the capacity of providing a level of care which transcends social, cultural and geographic barriers by increasing access to appropriate health care professionals, anyone, anytime, anywhere
· Aboriginal Health - The Council recommended the use of information technology to improve access to diagnostic and consulting services in northern and remote communities. Telehealth can revolutionize the way services are delivered to northern communities by allowing them to have access to a more complete range of health care services, reducing costs and travel time, and providing back-up and consultative support for community health care professionals
· Patient Safety - The annual report noted that there is a clear link between patient safety and information technology, particularly in reducing medication errors. The use of telehealth applications such as 'decision support' tools and drug information systems have been show to improve patient safety;
· Primary Health Care - The report identified how expanding telehealth technologies and electronic health records could increase access to appropriate health care providers for all Canadians. Through quicker access to appropriate health specialists, telehealth fosters correct diagnoses, appropriate treatment plans and follow-up, making interventions more timely and improving the outcome for patients;
· Home care - The report recognized that the need for home care services will increase as the population ages, as well as the disparities across Canada in terms of services provided, eligibility criteria and cost. The report recommended the use of information technology to assist in harmonizing a minimum level of home care services for Canadians. Already telehealth is applied in the home to help healthcare providers contact and monitor recovery of patients at home;
· Wait times - Telehealth offers the possibility of significantly reducing waiting lists by allowing health specialists to more quickly diagnose and treat patients via video-conferencing and telecommunications.

The report acknowledges the value of electronic heath records ( EHR's) and telehealth technologies to improve access, quality and the comprehensiveness of health care. The CST agrees that telehealth can assist in these areas as well as the following:

· Higher quality of care via enhanced treatment and follow-up;
· Improved health and wellness;
· Reduced hospitalization rates;
· Increased productivity of health care professionals;
· Improved cost-effectiveness in delivering health care services
· Increased educational benefits by expanding distance learning;
· Sustainability of health services particularly in smaller, remote communities;
· Higher retention of health care professionals serving rural and remote areas;
· Job creation.

Recommended Action

The Health Council report urges the rapid adoption of telehealth technologies by health care providers, governments and the public. The CST strongly supports this recommendation and will be working with the Health Council to:

1. demonstrate the advantages and strengths of telehealth;
2. encourage the resolution of a number of issues affecting the delivery of telehealth in order that its full potential may be achieved; and
3. identify and obtain resources to support the full development of telehealth delivery in Canada.

Contact

Roberta Hildebrand
Executive Director
Canadian Society of Telehealth
(613) 487-3557

IN: HEALTH, INTERNATIONAL, POLITICS, TECHNOLOGY, TELECOMM

Contact Information

  • Roberta Hildebrand, Executive Director, Canadian Society of Telehealth
    Primary Phone: 613-487-3557
    E-mail: director@cst-sct.org