The province of Ontario in Canada has a population of approximately 12 million, most of it concentrated in the large cities of Toronto, Ottawa, and London near the U.S. border. Ontario’s northern sector, on the other hand, is often referred to as a province within a province. The area is roughly the size of Texas and California combined, yet it is home to fewer than 1.5 million residents. In such a sparsely populated land, healthcare providers constantly battle shortages of health professionals, distance barriers, isolation, escalating health care costs, and the demands of serving the diverse needs of distinct populations.
Of course, serving an isolated population is a challenge for medical professionals. It is impractical for every specialty to represent itself in such a ryet medical challenges in which time is a critical factor arise regularly.
“Thousands of people every year, spread out over a great distance, need access to medical care,” says Dr. Ed Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN). Brown noted that oncology, neurology, internal medicine and mental health care are among the specialties most often requested for patient referral.
Three telemedicine networks had existed in Ontario since 1998, providing remote patient consultations with a specialist via video teleconferencing. While each successful in their own right, the three networks were not a complete solution due to compatibility problems between them that sometimes delayed care or required users to switch locations. The province needed a stable, secure, compatible solution that would serve both the isolated residents and the medical community. OTN, the result of a merger of the three Networks in 2006, filled that void. It uses videoconferencing and advanced information communication technologies to deliver clinical, educational and administrative services to more than 395 health care sites province-wide. It engages providers and institutions to provide the service, manages the technologies, fosters innovation through collaboration with its members and delivers telemedicine training.
Medical telemedicine networks require the utmost performance since the information carried on them can literally mean life or death. Quality is equally important, since medical images or sounds require the highest resolution possible so doctors can quickly discern ailments and make accurate diagnosis. What is needed is a high-quality; reliable, compatible, far-reaching network able to serve a remote section of the country 24-hours a day. Continue reading Ontario Telemedicine Network provides expert care for patients in remote locales