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Telehealth programs benefit patients in remote areas of B.C.

The Interior Health Authority in B.C. offers more than 30 telehealth programs that reduce wait times and save patients the time and expense of travelling long distances to see medical specialists.

Interior Health serves a population base of about 765,000, but the people are spread out and often in communities that are hard to reach. Instead of travelling a long distance to see specialists, patients can go to the nearest medical centre that has videoconferencing facilities. Specialists in other centres can then use an electronic stethoscope to examine them, view digital photos of wounds, and review radiology results through a Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS). They can also access patients' lab results and electronic medical records.

Interior Health also offers a TeleHome Care Monitoring program, which helps patients with congestive heart failure monitor and learn how to manage their own care. A small amount of equipment is put into a patient's home for 12 to 16 weeks, and every day the patient collects readings for weight, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation levels. The readings are automatically sent through an ordinary phone line to nurses at a clinic. The nurses monitor the readings and follow-up as necessary with the patient or with other caregivers.There are programs for patients who need surgical assessments and post-operative care for thoracic (chest) and cardiac surgery. There are also programs for cancer and kidney disease, and for wound care. As well, Interior Health often sets up ad hoc programs, as needed, such as TeleUltrasound for high risk pregnancies.

A TeleHome Care nurse, a thoracic surgeon and Interior Health Authority's chief information officer talk about their programs.

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