Healthy Living in the North

Telehealth bridges the kilometers between patients and doctors: NH Board updated on 5-year plan

Healthcare professionals in a telehealth meeting.Imagine being able to see a specialist without having to travel away from your community. Picture your doctor being able to monitor your condition while you’re in the comfort of your own home. How would it feel to ask for a prescription refill without having to go to a clinic? Telehealth is making these possibilities a reality.

The Northern Health Board of Directors received an update on NH’s 2017-2021 telehealth plan for expanding the clinical use of telehealth to reach more people in more places. Telehealth uses different kinds of technology to provide healthcare right in people’s own communities, with no need for travel. Examples include talking to a specialist by videoconference, sharing tests electronically to another hospital, getting physiotherapy by digital monitoring, and sending data from a monitor (such as a heart monitor) directly to your doctor. Telehealth allows for prevention, screening, diagnosis, determining a course of treatment, and clinical advice – in a way that’s very similar to an in-person experience.

“Telehealth is a virtualization of new and existing services that allows for a more intimate experience than a simple phone call can provide,” said Frank Flood, regional manager of Northern Health’s telehealth department. “By using video and peripheral equipment to extend the reach of clinics and specialists, we reduce the physical and financial burden to our patients.”

A telehealth cart.Many different kinds of health care can be provided by telehealth, including:

  • Mental health and addictions
  • Chronic disease
  • Kidney health
  • Child and youth health
  • Pharmacy services
  • Emergency services
  • Specialist consultations

These services and more will be available to Northern Health patients, depending on where they live (note that not all kinds of telehealth will be available in all communities).

Telehealth will improve care in rural and remote communities, and Northern Health will be partnering with the First Nations Health Authority to use telehealth to benefit Indigenous communities. Telehealth will also strengthen healthcare for the elderly and for people who need services around pregnancy, birth, or childcare. Likewise, it can help people living with chronic disease, mental illness, or addiction.

For the first two years of the plan, financial support for expanding telehealth capacity, including continued investment in staffing, tools, and capital equipment (such as refreshing videoconference suites) will come from NH’s existing operational budget. Funding for increasing the capacity of telehealth will also be sought from outside sources, including the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues.

Overall, telehealth will reduce the impact of distance and time in bringing health services to people and their families – Northern Health is excited to provide this new level of health care support to Northerners!

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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Overcoming a vast northern landscape

Magazine cover

The latest issue of Healthier You profiles people, programs, and ideas that overcome northern B.C.’s vast geography.

There’s no denying that northern B.C. is enormous! In fact, the area served by Northern Health covers about two-thirds of the province!

This geography brings with it all sorts unique recreation opportunities and, for many people, the chance to walk directly out of your front door into stunning natural environments.

That said, the size and remoteness of northern B.C. can create challenges, too. In the latest issue of Healthier You magazine, we’re looking at programs, ideas, and people who are taking on this challenge head-on!

Learn how technology, travel programs, partnerships, and northern ideas are “shrinking geography”:

In addition to sharing stories about all sorts of unique programs that connect people to services across our region, the magazine also lets you know how to access these services.

Take a look through the latest issue of the magazine online or look for a hard copy of the magazine in local doctors’ offices, clinics, and Northern Health facilities near you! All past issues of Healthier You are also available online.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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TeleHealth: Bringing kidney care to remote communities

Health care team watching a monitor around a table.

TeleHealth care allows the Kidney Care Team to reach more patients in remote communities!

Within Northern Health’s vast geographical area, residents in rural and remote communities have limited access to specialist care. The vision of the Kidney Care Team (comprised of a physician, nurse, dietician, pharmacist, social worker and unit clerk) is to address this challenge by regionalizing a team-based TeleHealth kidney service, investing in technology, and providing services closer to home (similar to the face-to-face model of care) where patients no longer need to travel long distances to larger centres.

The team recognizes that TeleHealth care will not completely replace face-to-face consultations, but that there is potential to reach more patients in remote communities, including First Nations, and to increase patient engagement with specialist health care services.

Why TeleHealth?

Dr. Singh, a nephrologist on the kidney care team, recalls one patient’s experience:

A new immigrant worker was urgently referred from a remote rural community with very advanced kidney disease. The referral letter stated that he was adamant he was not leaving his community to go and see a specialist. I was able to see him the next day via TeleHealth and after meeting the renal team and receiving education about his condition, he was convinced to come to Prince George on the Northern Health Connections bus for surgery to prepare for dialysis. This gentleman is now doing home dialysis at night and is able to work and earn a living during the day without moving from his community. This is a great example where, connecting via TeleHealth, the kidney team was able to alleviate his fears, avoid unnecessary travel and stress but, above all, deliver the education about his kidney disease and motivate him for home-based dialysis. As a provider, this is immensely satisfying as timely intervention to address an urgent clinical and educational need was met to provide the best care for this patient.

What does “Tele-Kidney-Care” look like at Northern Health? Click the infographic below to download a full-size PDF.

Check out the full version of this article: Northern Kidney Care Team Leads the Way in Expanding Access to Specialist Care in Northern BC

infographic

Tele-Kidney-Care at Northern Health

Justine Derksen

About Justine Derksen

Justine works for Northern Health in Medical Affairs as the Coordinator, Physician Engagement Initiatives in Prince George. Justine loves the north and enjoys the seasonal activities with her husband and adorable Bernese Mountain dog any chance she gets. Justine is currently pursuing her masters of Public Health degree, which she was inspired to pursue through her work with Northern Health. When not at work, Justine enjoys cooking, outdoor recreational activities and crafting.

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