The Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) facilitates clinical, educational and administrative services through more than 1,200 health care sites across the province, linking more than 3,000 health care professionals with patients.
Dr. Ed Brown, OTN's chief executive officer, said the network supported more than 134,000 patient consultations, nearly 12,000 educational events and more than13,100 administrative sessions in 2010-2011.
The network uses two-way videoconferencing, along with medical devices such as digital stethoscopes and hand-held exam cameras, to enable health care providers to interact with patients at a distance. Launched in 2006, access to the network was initially provided only through hospitals. However, the network has expanded into community settings, such as family health teams, community health centres and mental health facilities.
Dr. Brown said one of the major advantages of Telehealth technology is the ability to provide care in patients' homes. "Telehomecare is very powerful technology in terms of improving patient outcomes and reducing health care costs because it empowers patients to manage their own illnesses," he said. "We improve care - and patients are making fewer trips to the emergency department and being admitted to hospital less often. When you improve patient outcomes, improve satisfaction with the health care system and reduce system costs, that's very powerful technology."