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Expanded Telehealth resources boost rehabilitation centre's connection with patients

Desktop cameras, mobile units and a patient portal are part of the expanded Telehealth resources being used by the Stan Cassidy Rehabilitation Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick, to connect with patients across the province.

The centre is the province's only neurological rehabilitation facility, serving adult and pediatric patients referred by their local health care teams. Patients include those with stroke, neuromuscular disease, traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy. The goal is to help them reach their highest level of functioning.

Lise Bleau, the centre's telerehabilitation program manager, said an increased demand for consultations was putting pressure on existing video conferencing units. "The new tools are making a difference," Bleau said. "By installing desktop cameras on 10 computers, for example, staff can now conduct Telehealth sessions without leaving their work stations, no matter where the patients are located."

The cameras allow the centre's staff - physicians, nurses, therapists and other specialized health care providers - to share files and websites with patients. "This means they can display, for example, exercise information stored on their computers and talk about it with the patient or go online to demonstrate a useful website and show how to navigate it," Bleau said.

Four mobile Telehealth units set up in key locations in four of the province's health regions have helped as well. "By moving the units around the local facility, you increase the number of patients who can participate in sessions and benefit from meeting with our specialists," Bleau said. Other benefits for patients include a reduction in travel time and improved access to care.

Bleau said most Telehealth sessions are one on one, but there are times when patients will be joined during a consultation by their local circle of care or family members who want to learn more about the case. Sessions are also held with teachers who work with pediatric patients.

A web-based patient portal has been launched. It permits secure two-way messaging between the patient, patient representatives, clinical providers and support providers to share information and individualized resources, such as personalized care plans, pictures or videos. Recordings of personal Telehealth sessions can also be accessed through the portal.

Installation of the centre's additional Telehealth resources was funded by Canada Health Infoway as a demonstration project for its Patient Access to Quality Care program.

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