Virtual Critical Care program to use videoconferencing to reach patients
The hospital has partnered with the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) to launch Virtual Critical Care, a program that will use the Ontario Telemedicine Network to connect critically ill patients with a multidisciplinary team made up of physicians, registered nurses, pharmacists, dietitians and respiratory therapists through video conferencing.
“I believe this will be the future of health-care delivery in Ontario and Canada,” said Dr. Derek Manchuk, Health Sciences North's chief of critical care.
The new program, slated to start on Monday, May 26, builds on a pilot project the North East LHIN tested in 2009 and 2010.
During the pilot project, 30 per cent of participating critical care patients were able to stay in their home communities and receive their care through videoconferencing technology.
The patients, their families and the referring hospitals were all highly satisfied with the pilot project.
Health Sciences North has received $1 million from the North East LHIN to develop the necessary telemedicine infrastructure and support the new health-care delivery model.
All 13 of Health Sciences North's intensivists – physicians who specialize in critical care – will participate in the program. The hospital has also hired six nurses and will draw from an existing pool of dietitians, pharmacists and respiratory specialists to complete the multidisciplinary team.
The program will launch in three local hospitals – in Elliot Lake, Kirkland Lake and Temiskaming – in May. Five more sites will be added to the list in the early fall.
The program's second phase will expand access to 14 more small hospitals in northeastern Ontario.
The North East LHIN serves a population of 565,000 people across an estimated area covering 400,000 square kilometres in northeastern Ontario.
“The goal of this is to make a more equitable health-care system in terms of giving patients services they may not otherwise have unless they were transferred to a larger centre,” Manchuk said.