Canadian Society of Telehealth positions telehealth to advance in Canada and is strengthened by the Aboriginal Telehealth Knowledge Circle

Ottawa 12 October 2006The Aboriginal Telehealth Knowledge Circle (ATKC) will be joining the Canadian Society of Telehealth (CST) as a Special Interest Group (SIG). The ATKC is recognized nationally for its contribution to Aboriginal telehealth knowledge transfer and promotion of community based practice development, and will continue to actively develop and support Aboriginal telehealth as the Canadian Society of Telehealth's ATKC-SIG. In addition, CST and Canada Health Infoway plan to work together to advance telehealth, defined as health care practised at a distance.


"Telehealth can bring a range of quality health care services to rural, remote and Aboriginal communities", stated Dr. Richard Scott, President of the CST. "Aboriginal communities have unique health and cultural needs, and having the ATKC as an integral part of the CST will significantly enhance our understanding of the issues, and raise our ability to move forward together in those areas." He added: "It is a wonderful opportunity that we welcome."

"The ATKC is excited about our new relationship with the CST as it directly supports our mission to improve the health of indigenous people by expanding the use of telehealth and supporting indigenous health providers", stated Brenda Sanderson, interim President of the ATKC Board of Directors and Chair of the ATKC SIG. "As we move forward in spreading the good news of telehealth within our communities, we will work closely with the CST to raise the visibility and understanding of the Aboriginal telehealth community within the broader Canadian telehealth community." She added: "At the same time, we look forward to working with the CST to raise the profile, value and professionalism of telehealth overall."

Telehealth uses information and communications technologies to improve health and support health care. Throughout Canada consultations, patient visitation, and specialized health care services are already provided to communities using video-based applications. But telehealth applications also include use of the Internet to support education and administrative needs, and include the use of web sites to provide information to the public, to patients, and to care providers. The increasing use of tele-triage through nurse-mediated information lines is another telehealth application. It is anticipated that the future will see telehealth directly supporting the wellness and care of people in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes.

Patients in remote and rural communities could have better access to health care thanks to telehealth development, a primary focus for Canada's electronic health record catalyst and Canada's premier telehealth organisation.

For example, CST will provide subject matter expertise for several of Infoway's ongoing telehealth projects. Infoway plans to leverage CST's expertise, experience and national presence to help accelerate progress. CST plans to increase its capacity to become a centre for telehealth related knowledge including key reports and studies.

"We're working towards bringing a wider range of quality health care services to remote and rural communities through telehealth", stated Richard Alvarez, Infoway's President and CEO. "Collaboration with the CST can help us achieve our goals", he added.

Dr. Richard Scott, CST President, explained: "CST consists of key stakeholders involved in furthering the development and implementation of Telehealth. We already act as a major resource for information and knowledge sharing, and contribute to telehealth policy and standards development. Making these resources available to Infoway makes perfect sense." Dr. Scott added: "We are recognized as the Canadian voice for telehealth both at home and internationally."

Telehealth typically relies on telecommunications, videoconferencing and computers to link health care providers in one location with patients in another location. Telehealth improves access to health care for remote and rural communities and reduces travel time and costs for patients and providers.

Initially, as part of the collaborative efforts, CST will help Infoway participate in a Canada-wide Scheduling Requirements project to ensure interoperability in resource management for all Canadian jurisdictions and contribute to the development of a business case for home telehealth with a view to accelerating the deployment of home-based solutions throughout Canada.

Infoway is an independent not-for-profit organisation that invests with public sector partners across Canada to implement and reuse compatible health information systems which support a safer, more efficient health care system. Fully respecting patient confidentiality, these private and secure systems provide health care professionals with rapid access to complete and accurate patient information, enabling better decisions about diagnosis and treatment. The result is a sustainable health care system offering improved quality, accessibility and productivity.

The Canadian Society of Telehealth is recognized as Canada's premier telehealth organisation and advocate for the advancement and adoption of information and telecommunications technologies in the delivery of health and health services. Its vision is "Optimal health and health care, anyone, anytime, anywhere - enabled by information and communication technology". The organisation supports this vision by providing a forum for advocacy, networking, and communication and sharing of resources among its communities of interest.

The Aboriginal Telehealth Knowledge Circle was formed in Calgary, Alberta on October 16, 2003, with the intention of pooling the knowledge and skills resources of telehealth practitioners from across the country who work in Aboriginal communities, regions and organisations. Aboriginal communities of practice and institutional communities of interest recognize ATKC as an important means for supporting community-based development of telehealth services in Canada.

Leslie Versweyveld

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