Imagine being able to see a specialist without having to travel away from your community. Picture your doctor being able to monitor your condition while you’re in the comfort of your own home. How would it feel to ask for a prescription refill without having to go to a clinic? Telehealth is making these possibilities a reality.
The Northern Health Board of Directors received an update on NH's 2017-2021 telehealth plan for expanding the clinical use of telehealth to reach more people in more places. Telehealth uses different kinds of technology to provide healthcare right in people’s own communities, with no need for travel. Examples include talking to a specialist by videoconference, sharing tests electronically to another hospital, getting physiotherapy by digital monitoring, and sending data from a monitor (such as a heart monitor) directly to your doctor. Telehealth allows for prevention, screening, diagnosis, determining a course of treatment, and clinical advice – in a way that’s very similar to an in-person experience.
"Telehealth is a virtualization of new and existing services that allows for a more intimate experience than a simple phone call can provide," said Frank Flood, regional manager of Northern Health's telehealth department. "By using video and peripheral equipment to extend the reach of clinics and specialists, we reduce the physical and financial burden to our patients."
Many different kinds of health care can be provided by telehealth, including:
- Mental health and addictions
- Chronic disease
- Kidney health
- Child and youth health
- Pharmacy services
- Emergency services
- Specialist consultations
These services and more will be available to Northern Health patients, depending on where they live (note that not all kinds of telehealth will be available in all communities).
Telehealth will improve care in rural and remote communities, and Northern Health will be partnering with the First Nations Health Authority to use telehealth to benefit Indigenous communities. Telehealth will also strengthen healthcare for the elderly and for people who need services around pregnancy, birth, or childcare. Likewise, it can help people living with chronic disease, mental illness, or addiction.
For the first two years of the plan, financial support for expanding telehealth capacity, including continued investment in staffing, tools, and capital equipment (such as refreshing videoconference suites) will come from NH’s existing operational budget. Funding for increasing the capacity of telehealth will also be sought from outside sources, including the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues.
Overall, telehealth will reduce the impact of distance and time in bringing health services to people and their families – Northern Health is excited to provide this new level of health care support to Northerners!