Two Eastern Ontario telehealth projects receive $4,5 million in funding from Canadian Government

Ottawa 02 October 2001Health Minister Allan Rock has confirmed that the Government of Canada will contribute $4,5 million to two telehealth initiatives in Eastern Ontario. The funds include $1,5 million for Regionally Accessible Secure Cardiac Health Records, a project led by the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI), and $3 million for Eastern Ontario Telehealth Network, a project led by the Pembroke General Hospital.

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"Both projects will have significant impact on the delivery of health care services to patients throughout Eastern Ontario, including those who live in rural communities", stated Minister Rock. "The two projects exemplify the Government of Canada's commitment to developing an efficient, comprehensive and more affordable health system through the better use of information and communications technologies."

Building upon a pre-existing patient registry and tracking system, the UOHI will develop a Web-based, secure, regionally-accessible, cardiac health record system. Regionally Accessible Secure Cardiac Health Records will give health care providers immediate access to up-to-date patient data and enable physicians, for example, to electronically refer patients to the UOHI for assessment and treatment. The new health records system will use proven methods to ensure the highest standards of security and confidentiality of clinical information.

Patient records will become available when and where they are needed. The project is expected to reduce the time required to access clinical records by outside referring physicians, and to improve follow-up and administrative efforts by the physician and UOHI staff. Both referring and UOHI physicians will have immediate access to up-to-date patient data to enable close monitoring and provide quick feedback as necessary. This data warehouse will also provide medical information for future analysis and study.

The Eastern Ontario Telehealth Network will bring telehealth services to patients throughout Eastern Ontario's rural communities and provide health care services as close to home as possible by linking 16 community hospitals and one district health council to the UOHI, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, and Sisters of Charity of Ottawa Health Services. The project will install a fully-integrated telehealth system that will capture real time medical images and patient demographics. The information will be stored in a secure patient folder.

Led by the Pembroke General Hospital, the project will use these interactive telecommunications technologies to allow providers to diagnose and treat patients close to home; provide scheduled educational services to medical professionals, patients and their families; work towards the provision of a 24-hour emergency telehealth consultative service; and assist in the recruitment and retention of physicians and health care professionals in rural and remote communities by increasing support from colleagues across the region, thereby reducing their sense of isolation.

This project will provide clinical consultations in cardiac, paediatric, palliative, and complex continuing care, and care of the elderly. Once the equipment is in place to provide speciality consultations, it can also be used for clinical rounds, peer-to-peer consultations, and to facilitate research projects across the network and in other jurisdictions.

"These two projects will improve collaboration and integration between hospitals, reduce duplication, and enhance access to quality health care", commented Mac Harb, Member of Parliament in Ottawa-Centre. "This initiative is innovative", added Joe Jordan, Member of Parliament in Leeds-Grenville. "I am confident that it will benefit physicians and other health care workers, as well as provide Canadians living in remote areas with greater access to improved health care services."

Funding originates from the Canada Health Infostructure Partnerships Programme (CHIPP), a two-year, $80 million federal programme announced by Minister Rock in June 2000, along with the Government of Canada's rural health strategy. CHIPP supports collaboration, innovation, and renewal in health care delivery through the use of information and communication technologies. Investing primarily in telehealth and electronic health records model projects, the programme helps improve accessibility and quality of care for all Canadians while enhancing the efficiency and long-term viability of the health system.

The federal government's investment in health care information and communications technologies was first highlighted in the 1997 Budget, when $50 million was targeted to the development of the Canadian Health Infostructure and in the 1999 Budget when a further $366 million was allocated over a four-year period. The signing of the Health Agreement by all First Ministers, in September 2000, laid the foundation for ongoing federal, provincial, and territorial collaboration in developing and implementing the Canadian Health Infostructure.

"Our aim is to co-ordinate a national effort to implement innovative applications of modern information technology in health care delivery to provide better health care services to Canadians in all parts of our country, including rural and remote areas", concluded Minister Rock. The University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) is an internationally recognised teaching, research, and health care delivery facility for cardiac care services to over 1,5 million people in Eastern Ontario. The institution is partnered with xwave, a private information technology company, and several regional hospitals.


Leslie Versweyveld

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