Health Canada approves Home Telehealth solution and funding for tele-ophthalmology project

Ottawa, Yellowknife 22 January 2003Health Canada is currently involved in two successful telemedicine projects. On the one hand, it is contributing up to $436.177 to the WestNet Tele-Opthalmology Project managed by the Government of the Northwest Territories. On the other hand, March Networks, a proven innovator in developing home telehealth solutions, is now able to actively market and sell its Home Telehealth solution in Canada following the receipt of Health Canada approval on the solution's Health Monitoring Kit (HMK).

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"The nursing community and homecare patients have already demonstrated acceptance of the solution in an independently-evaluated pilot programme conducted last year", stated Bob Webster, vice president, sales and marketing for March Networks. "The approval from Health Canada puts us in a position to move forward with some of the near-term opportunities here in Canada while we continue to develop relationships and pursue approvals required for marketing the solution in the United States and internationally."

The March Networks Home Telehealth solution uses a secure broadband Internet connection for remote visiting and health monitoring and is unique in the industry in its use of the patient's own home television for video conferencing in support of greater patient acceptance, ease-of-use, and lower cost of implementation.

The solution also incorporates Bluetooth wireless connectivity and biometrics-controlled system access. These two key features support a high degree of interoperability with other medical peripherals as well as communications devices such as laptops and PDAs, and ensure data integrity with patient authentication when the HMK is used in a multi-patient environment.

The newly approved solution now supports a broader range of applications and capabilities, such as off-line monitoring of health data in support of disease management, and care on demand, which is the ability for patients to connect to a health professional outside of a scheduled visit.

March Networks Corporation develops, manufactures, and distributes innovative broadband IP applications and delivery platforms. The company's integrated solutions enable businesses to improve operational efficiencies and generate new revenues with enhanced multimedia communication services that leverage the worldwide growth and always-on, interactive capabilities of broadband networks.

Through direct sales, premier distribution channels and strategic partnerships, including a strategic alliance with Mitel Networks, March Networks currently serves the financial, retail, health care, transportation, facilities, and government markets with high value business solutions. The company is headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario and operates offices around the world.

In turn, the WestNet Tele-Opthalmology project was created to help screen North West Territories people with diabetes for early signs of the retinal deterioration that can lead to blindness. Trained eye technicians from the Eye Centre of the Stanton Territorial Health Authority in Yellowknife are using portable stereoscopic digital imaging equipment to create retinal images that will be forwarded to specialists at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton for analysis and treatment recommendations.

"This project ensures that more Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents of remote northern communities are tested regularly for diabetic retinopathy, a condition that, if left untreated, leads to blindness", stated Secretary of State, Children and Youth, Ethel Blondin-Andrew. "This reflects the Government of Canada's commitment to work collaboratively with provinces and territories to make new technologies a regular way of delivering health services to all Canadians no matter where they live", she further stated.

Funding for this project comes from the Canada Health Infostructure Partnerships Programme (CHIPP). It is a cost-shared incentive programme aimed at supporting collaboration, innovation, and renewal in health care delivery across Canada through the use of modern information technologies. Investing primarily in telehealth and electronic health records model projects, CHIPP helps improve accessibility and quality of care for all Canadians, while enhancing the efficiency and long-term vitality of Canada's health system.

The federal government's investment in health care information and communications technologies was highlighted in the 1999 Budget when $366 million was allocated over a four-year period to the development of the Canada Health Infostructure.

The signature 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, with the Government of Canada investing an additional $500 million in targeted funding for health information technology.

Funding for this project was provided for in the December 2001 budget and is therefore built into the existing fiscal framework. More information on the March Networks Home Telehealth solution can be found in the VMW July 2002 article New version of March Networks Home Telehealth Solution to be tested in upcoming diabetes pilot.


Leslie Versweyveld

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