TeleUtrasound Programme for rural patients goes "live" in Northern Alberta

Smoky Lake 21 July 2000The Lakeland Regional Health Authority, in collaboration with TecKnowledge Healthcare Systems Inc. and Visual Telecommunications Network Inc. (ViTel Net), has been setting up the Lakeland TeleUltrasound Programme that has successfully gone "live" in Alberta, Canada. The Lakeland TeleUltrasound Programme links St. Joseph's General Hospital in the rural community of Vegreville with radiologists in Edmonton.

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TeleUltrasound services in Lakeland went live June 24th 2000, preceded by a pilot project earlier this year. Residents receiving increased access and quicker diagnosis have already experienced the true success of the service. TeleUltrasound, the delivery of ultrasound services by means of telecommunications and information technology, efficiently captures, stores, forwards, and displays ultrasound images through real time connections, for diagnosis by a radiologist, locally or at another site.

The Lakeland Regional Health Authority (LRHA) initiated the TeleUltrasound Programme in response to an increasing shortage of sonographers as well as radiologists in the province of Alberta, potentially threatening the delivery of ultrasound services to patients in the region. TeleUltrasound can provide a viable, stable, and efficient solution, thus enabling the continued offering of ultrasound services to rural and remote patients in their communities.

The Lakeland TeleUltrasound Programme is scheduled for further roll-out to an additional five sites in the Lakeland Region by Autumn 2000. These sites include Lac La Biche, Fort Saskatchewan, Bonnyville, Cold Lake, and Saint Paul.

According to Pearl Babiuk, CEO of the Lakeland Regional Health Authority, TeleUltrasound brings a most valuable service to patients within the region. "Providing timely access to health care services for a population spread across the region is a main concern of the LRHA. We expect that a non-stop availability of TeleUltrasound will improve access to services while reducing the stress and expense of travel for patients, and for radiologists."

Lakeland TeleUltrasound Project Co-ordinator Doreen Tennant explained that through the system, on site sonographers can confer with a radiologist from a site in Edmonton, through real time connections. "The system allows a sonographer to capture ultrasound video images, and view them in consultation with the radiologist at the other end, or store and forward them for later reference", stated Ms. Tennant. "Even patients' records, including previous exams and doctor's notes, can accompany the images, providing radiologists with additional information when making a diagnosis. The software used maintains complete privacy and confidentiality."

TecKnowledge provided the clinical, technical, and operational expertise for the programme's service planning and implementation, and training and support for clinicians. The TecKnowledge company specialises in the design, implementation, and management of telehealth programmes and has helped create several successful operational telehealth programmes across Canada and internationally.

"All of us at TecKnowledge are thrilled to be part of a team which is working to improve access to health care services and resources", stated Linda Weaver, Chief Technical Officer of TecKnowledge Healthcare Systems Inc. "Telehealth provides tremendous benefit for regions like Lakeland. It bridges the distance, linking patients and providers across the region or even the province, providing a convenient, innovative and cost-effective solution to the very real health-related needs and concerns of rural and remote communities."

TecKnowledge utilised the MedVizer open architecture software developed by ViTel Net, a telemedicine/e-health system developer and integrator. MedVizer is able to display health care information in an image and video-enhanced environment, and allows for rapid accessing of patient databases. The MedVizer software operates in store and forward or real time modes to distribute clinical images and patient information using the Internet or any other telecommunication systems.

"ViTel Net is very excited with the successful implementation of the Lakeland TeleUltrasound Programme", commented Allen Izadpanah, President and CEO of ViTel Net. "We have hundreds of installations worldwide but this is a wonderful addition because it is the first ultrasound telemedicine solution that we have provided by utilising the MedVizer software."

The TeleUltrasound Project in the Lakeland region is part of Alberta Wellnet's telehealth initiative. The technology underwent substantial testing by the Alberta Research Council to ensure it meets established provincial telehealth technical standards in Alberta, and that it is interoperable with the existing health care equipment in Alberta.

As Pearl Babiuk, CEO of the Lakeland Regional Health Authority explained, "meeting the province's established telehealth standards was a priority for this project. The equipment which we have in place ensures performance quality, as well as interoperability and interconnectivity with all the existing equipment within our facilities."


Leslie Versweyveld

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