Digital Stethoscopes Enable Remote Care for Heart Failure Patients Across Vancouver Island

(Island Wide) Cardiac and Internal Medicine specialists at Heart Function Clinics located in Nanaimo, Campbell River and Victoria are listening to the heartbeats of patients who live in communities across Vancouver Island in real time with the addition of digital stethoscopes to existing telehealth technologies.

“Island patients and their families are benefiting from the latest in medical technology,” said Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong. “The application of TeleCardiology across Vancouver Island is the result of the hard work of the specialists and staff at VIHA.”

The TeleCardiology program uses video conferencing telehealth technology and the digital stethoscope. This technology enables patients to remain in their communities and meet with their cardiac and internal medicine specialists who can listen to the heartbeat of patients remotely. TeleCardiology benefits patients by providing follow-up cardiac health care closer to home and without the stress or financial burden of long distance travel.

“Telehealth breaks down the physical obstacles and long distances,” said Parksville-Qualicum MLA Ron Cantelon. “Video conferencing technology allows patients living in more rural or remote communities to be able to access specialized health care more easily.”

B.C.’s health authorities partnered to purchase the digital stethoscopes to ensure that all TeleCardiology programs across the province have compatible equipment.

“TeleCardiology enhances the collaborative approach to delivering cardiac care to the patient,” said Dr. Elizabeth Swiggum, a Victoria-based cardiologist. “It is like having the patient sitting next to you.”

Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) is the first health authority in BC to roll out the TeleCardiology program using the digital stethoscopes.

“TeleCardiology is a wonderful program for heart patients who reside in Vancouver Island communities that are a significant distance from cardiac specialists located at our larger acute care facilities,” said Don Hubbard, VIHA Board Chair. “The addition of these digital stethoscopes allows cardiologists to provide heart patients with specialized follow-up cardiac care closer to their patients’ homes which in turn, improves their quality of life.”

VIHA acquired the digital stethoscopes with funding provided by Canada Health Infoway, the federally funded organization investing in electronic health record systems with the provinces and territories.

“Today’s announcement is about improving the patient experience by breaking down barriers to care,” said Richard Alvarez, President and CEO, Canada Health Infoway.  “Many Canadians live great distances from the specialized care they need and telehealth can help to bridge the gap.  In fact, investments in telehealth across Canada eliminated over 47 million kilometres of patient travel in 2010 alone.” 

VIHA has made significant investments in telehealth and is recognized as a leader in delivering telehealth programs to support better health outcomes for our patients. Currently, 14 VIHA programs provide telehealth services in 17 communities at 41 different sites. Over 7,700 telehealth consults have taken place since the inception of the telehealth program in 2007. VIHA estimates that over two million kilometres of travel and close to a million kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions across Vancouver Island have been reduced since the inception of the telehealth program.


For more information:

Valerie Wilson 
VIHA Communications

Karen Schmidt
Director, Corporate/Internal Communications
Canada Health Infoway
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