Telehealth program reaches milestone

NANAIMO – The role of telehealth in Vancouver Island Health services is expanding as new technology is developed

It’s a 782-kilometre round trip from Joseph Lefort’s home on northern Vancouver Island to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital but he was able to meet with Dr. Anthony Booth at NRGH by making a 10-minute trip to a telehealth room at Port Hardy Hospital.

“It’s a lot more handy for me than driving two and a half hours to Campbell River or four and a half hours to Nanaimo,” Lefort said.

Lefort’s consultation last month, conducted with the use of video technology, marked the 10,000th Vancouver Island Health Telehealth consultation since the service was introduced in 2007.

Vancouver Island Health is recognized as a leader in delivering programs to support better health outcomes for patients through video technology. Currently, Telehealth services are available at 48 different sites in 18 communities.

Consultations are available in 14 fields including oncology, thoracics, mental health, cardiology, genetics, nephrology, eating disorders and geriatric psychiatry.

Since telehealth services were introduced, Vancouver Island Health patients have saved more than 3.7 million kilometers of travel to appointments and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1.3 million tons.

The role of telehealth in Vancouver Island Health services is expanding as new technology is developed. An investment in digital stethoscopes in 2012 now allows cardiologists and other health providers to listen to patients’ heartbeats in distant locations.

Margarita Loyola, telehealth manager, said there is also the potential to develop procedures that protect privacy while enabling health-care providers and patients to connect through their offices and homes on computers or mobile devices such as iPads.

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