Telehealth Ontario has nurses deliver 24/7 medical advice over the phone

Toronto 10 July 2001Residents and cottagers in Barrie, Orillia, Peterborough, Midland, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville, and surrounding communities in the Canadian 705 area code will now be able to dial up round-the-clock health advice through Telehealth Ontario, a new telephone health information line. The province of Ontario is investing $45 million annually in the telehealth service, including the $5 million contribution from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, an agency founded by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.

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"Our government is pleased to introduce Telehealth Ontario to the southern 705 area code", stated Health and Long-Term Care Minister Tony Clement. "This project is a vital part of our government's plan to provide better access to health care. Residents will now have access to health advice provided by a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Callers will be able to reach experienced Registered Nurses who provide the free, confidential service. Patients can ask nurses questions about health concerns, or describe symptoms to help determine whether they should head immediately to an emergency room, whether their condition can wait for a visit to their health care professional the next day, or whether they can look after themselves at home.

Telehealth Ontario provides information and advice about health-related concerns such as symptoms that could require medical attention; illness or injury; chronic illnesses; nutrition and healthy lifestyles; teen health and lifestyle issues. The nurses use computer databases of health information to help them answer questions and provide advice. They equally can connect callers quickly to services like poison information centres or a medication information line staffed by pharmacists. Callers can also be connected with the service's audio tape library for information on a wide variety of topics.

Telehealth Ontario does not replace 911 as the number to call in emergency situations. The nurses do not diagnose a caller's illness. But they will be able instead to link calls to 911 for emergencies, as well as fax information to the hospital Emergency Rooms on specific patients. "I am pleased that our government has provided funding through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund to launch this initiative as a pilot project in Northern Ontario", stated Northern Development and Mines Minister Dan Newman. "It demonstrates our commitment to use innovative approaches to delivering health care across the province."

"Telehealth Ontario has proven to be a successful health care resource providing knowledgeable as well as professional advice from Registered Nurses", according to the Honourable Jim Wilson, Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, and former Minister of Health. "Its extension into Simcoe-Grey will enhance the accessibility of our residents, especially in the rural areas, to health care services."

Launched in the 416 and 905 area codes last February, Telehealth Ontario will be available to all Ontario residents by the end of the year. Part of the 705 area code has been involved in a pilot project since July 1999 and the service has been well received. Clinidata Corporation, the current service provider in the 416 and 905 area codes will also provide the service in the 705 area code.

Clinidata also operates Direct Health, a telecare pilot project that has been running in North Bay since 1999 to serve residents in the 807 and part of the 705 area code. The North Bay centre receives about 6000 calls a month, with more than 85 percent of callers expressing satisfaction with the service. Similar positive results have been reported in Québec as well as New Brunswick where telecare services are offered province-wide.


Leslie Versweyveld

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