Technology is transforming the delivery of health-care services. New technologies and innovative approaches are continually being introduced into the system as a way to bridge the gaps between patients and physicians and educators and students.
Accessing specialized care and health care resources at St. Michael’s Hospital has never been easier. The hospital’s telemedicine program uses technology to overcome barriers, such as distance, cost and mobility, which limit a patient’s access to care. Secure videoconferencing makes it possible for patients to have “virtual” clinic visits with their specialists. Store and Forward technology allows the hospital’s Family Health physicians to consult with a specialist by simply logging into a secure portal and sending images.
St. Michael’s is one of two regional trauma centres in Toronto where patients from across the province are transferred for care. Once patients are discharged to their home communities, they still need to visit trauma follow-up clinics. For some patients, travel to Toronto is time consuming, costly and uncomfortable. The Trauma Telemedicine Follow-up Clinic was created to eliminate this barrier to follow-up care.
In 2013, Dr. Najma Ahmed, Dr. Joao De Rezende-Neto, Dr. Bernard Lawless, Dr. John Marshall, Dr. Ori Rotstein and Dr. Sandro Rizoli, physicians from the Trauma and Acute-Care Surgery team, began holding Trauma Telemedicine Follow-up Clinics for patients treated primarily for abdominal or thoracic injuries. These patients are connected to a trauma physician, nurse practitioner and resident via telemedicine.
These virtual clinics are the next best thing to having the patient attend an ambulatory clinic. A nurse accompanies the patient and they help to facilitate the examination by checking vital signs and operating a specialist examination camera. This offers the St. Michael’s team a clear view of the wound in the telemedicine studio in the Shuter wing.
Today, about 115 clinicians from specialty programs such as Cardiology, Respirology (Cystic Fibrosis), Allergy and Immunology, Geriatrics Nephrology, Rheumatology and Vascular Surgery are using telemedicine to care for patients in communities across the province. In 2015-16, more than 2,000 patients were seen via telemedicine by a St. Michael’s specialist.
New, affordable desktop videoconferencing solutions, such as Personal Computer VideoConferencing (PCVC), make it possible for specialists, nurse practitioners and other health professionals to embed telemedicine into their office routine. Today, more than 20 clinicians conduct telemedicine consultations in their offices. Going forward, a plan is in place to roll out PCVC to programs across the hospital and in Family Health Teams.
The telemedicine program promotes best practices in tele-education by encouraging more participatory educational approaches to be used so that all learners – local and remote – are engaged. Over the past 12 years, St. Michael’s has hosted more than 4,500 tele-educational events. Sessions are broadcast regularly for journal clubs, grand rounds, case conference, undergraduate and post-graduate teaching seminars, and for patient education
There are plans to develop a strategic roadmap for telemedicine and improve communication between St. Michael’s and the Family Health teams.
Teaching Through Tele-Education
Infographic about telemedicine statistics at St. Michael’s Hospital