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Telehealth: Maximizing health care resources to serve patient needs

Telehealth services exist in every Canadian province and territory, linking health care professionals and patients through videoconferencing to enhance access to care. A wide range of clinical services is available and is tailored to the needs of patients in each area.

Whether the services are delivered by hospital centres with a large pool of health professionals or smaller health regions with less staff, the benefits for patients and health care providers are similar: greater access to specialized care, reduced travel times and shorter wait times.

Valerie Sutherland is the Telemedicine coordinator at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. The centre, which is affiliated with the University of Toronto, delivers Telehealth services mainly to the northeast and northwestern communities in Ontario. The Telemedicine department has access to a large pool of specialists who can offer patient services as needed. Sutherland talks about two of Sunnybrook's largest areas of Telemedicine - the assessment and followup of burn patients, and pain management consultations.

Mary Deren is regional Telehealth coordinator for the Sun Country Health Region in southern Saskatchewan. The region provides health care services to 54,000 people located in urban, rural and First Nations communities. The number of specialists on staff is limited so Telehealth reduces their need to travel, allows them to see more patients and increases access to care. The heaviest use of Telehealth is for treatment of mental health issues. Deren talks about her health region's use of Telehealth and the benefits for patients.

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