Canadian National Initiative for Telehealth releases Framework of Guidelines for Telehealth

Ottawa 03 October 2003The National Initiative for Telehealth (NIFTE) Framework of Guidelines has been released at the Canadian Society for Telehealth (CST) annual conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia on October 6th, 2003. Teletriage and teleconsultation are becoming a mainstream part of the health system. These guidelines will go a long way to ensuring Canadians consistency in the quality of care and service provided by health care professionals using innovative technologies, according to Lois Scott, Executive Vice-President Clinidata Corporation.

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Telehealth is the use of information and communication technology, such as computers and telephones, to deliver health services. "Telehealth is emerging as a promising answer to one of the greatest challenges to Canada's health system: improving access to health care across all regions of the country while containing delivery costs", stated Trevor Cradduck, NIFTE Co-Chair, adding "but application of the technology has been hampered by concerns such as privacy of the health information or the credentialing and registration of professionals providing the service."

The NIFTE Framework of Guidelines was developed as a tool for use in the development of policy, procedures, guidelines and standards that will promote the delivery of high quality patient care through telehealth activities, such as teletriage, telecare, and teleconsultation. NIFTE is a national Canadian multi-stakeholder, interdisciplinary collaboration that was funded by the Richard Ivey Foundation. What is unique about this project is that it focuses not only on the technical aspects of telehealth, but also on the care and service itself.

Specifically, the document outlines guidelines for four areas: clinical standards and outcomes of the service (Clinical Standards and Outcomes), the professionals involved in providing the care (Human Resources), as well as the organisational (Organisational Leadership) and technical (Technology and Equipment) requirements. The Framework will be used by:

  • Telehealth provider organisations, such as hospitals and teletriage agencies,
  • Regulated health professionals such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists; and finally
  • The Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation (CCHSA) in the evaluation of the quality of telehealth services.

Development of the NIFTE Framework took place over 20 months and included an extensive scan of policies and standards in telehealth practice. The process also included consultation with telehealth providers, professional associations, professional regulatory bodies, researchers, and governments to confirm the Framework's relevance and application to telehealth delivery in Canada.

"The NIFTE Framework provides an exciting opportunity to generate a pan-Canadian approach to telehealth", stated Sandra MacDonald-Rencz, NIFTE Co-Chair. "However this is only the first step. It will require continued commitment from all key stakeholders to ensure these guidelines become the standard for how telehealth services are provided."

The next step will be to work with groups like the CST, Canada Health Infoway, and the Canadian Council for Health Service Accreditation (CCHSA) to find ways to ensure implementation of the NIFTE guidelines into Canada's health system.


Leslie Versweyveld

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