News Release Archive

A new technology to help deliver health care in rural Nova Scotia
has received a 100 per cent satisfaction rating from patients and
solid support from the health care providers who used it.

In a recent pilot project funded by the Department of Health,
every patient exposed to telemedicine thought the technology was
beneficial to them and a boost to the health care offered in
their communities.

"Any time health care can be improved close to home is a real
step forward," said Health Minister Bernie Boudreau. "This
technology breaks down distance, it means people can be treated
in their home towns and their own communities, not put in an
ambulance and sent to Halifax or Sydney."

Telemedicine uses computer-based telecommunications technology to
transmit medical data and video images between physicians at two
or more locations. Information is transferred from a rural site
with limited specialist resources to a specialist site with
greater resources. The doctor in the rural site gets assistance
with a diagnosis or with planning treatment for a patient.

Telemedicine is a substantial support in the province's efforts
to recruit and retain physicians in rural communities.

The telemedicine pilot project linked hospitals in Guysborough,
Sheet Harbor and North Sydney with specialists in radiology and
dermatology at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in

The project also included a continuing medical education
component with the participation of Dalhousie University, the
Cape Breton Healthcare Complex and physicians in Guysborough,
Sheet Harbor and North Sydney. The 12 continuing medical
education sessions which ran from January to June 1996 fostered
team building as a variety of health care providers (physicians,
nurses, social workers, etc.) were able to attend. Telemedicine
also provided for continuing medical education at a cost savings
to rural physicians over the more traditional visiting professor

"Telemedicine has been a tremendous benefit in this community,
for patients and for health care providers," said Dr. Michael
Hillis, a Guysborough family physician who participated in the
project. "For physicians in rural communities, the interactive
nature of telemedicine makes you more comfortable with new
treatments and diagnosis -- it helps to reaffirm what you are
doing. That's good for patients."

In the long run, telemedicine can have substantial benefits for
patients who no longer need to travel long distances for care,
and for health care providers working in rural communities.

For example, of five emergency cases in radiology that occurred
during the pilot project, the immediate response of a radiologist
in three of the cases meant the patient didn't need to be
transported to a regional health care facility for further
assessment. The result: considerable reduction in stress to the
patient, the patient's family and to the rural health care
providers treating the patient, cost savings for ambulance
transport and possible reduction of hospital admission and
inpatient days.

The consulting radiologist believes the interpretation of x-rays
using telemedicine technology is a reliable and accurate means of
conducting routine radiological examinations.

Dr. Jennifer Klotz, a Halifax-based dermatologist who was the
consultant for the dermatology component of the telemedicine
pilot project, said telemedicine helps rural physicians access
specialist care and reduces isolation.

"Patients loved it too," said Dr. Klotz. "I think it improves
quality of care for rural patients."

The pilot project determined that telemedicine is a satisfactory
way to see patients requiring a dermatologist's care without
compromising communication between patients and physicians. It
was also determined that the accuracy of diagnosis was similar to
"live" consultations.

An assessment of the telemedicine pilot project, conducted in
1996, showed it is viable from clinical, educational and
technical perspectives. This is the first telemedicine project in
Canada to demonstrate that affordable, readily available computer
hardware can be easily adapted to multiple clinical applications
and video conferencing use. It is also the first Canadian project
to be subject to a complete evaluation that determined the
acceptance of the system to specialists, rural physicians and

A formal presentation of Nova Scotia's telemedicine pilot project
-- and its successes -- will be presented at a Canadian
Telehealth conference in Quebec later this month.


Contact: Lori MacLean  902-424-5025

trp                      Apr. 4, 1997 - 3:05 p.m.