Residents of Rosthern and area may be able to save themselves the drive in to Saskatoon or even further locations for some specialist appointments.Telehealth equipment has recently been installed at Rosthern Hospital giving patients and physicians there access to specialists, not only in Saskatoon, but potentially across Canada.

“Telehealth gives patients access to care closer to home,” says Telehealth Coordinator Jennifer Falastein. “Patients are able to visit certain clinicians via video conference at a local Telehealth site, reducing the need for travel.”

Devices such as patient exam cameras with 50x zoom lens, as well as electronic stethoscopes are changing the way providers give care according to Falastein. Doctors will direct clinic assistants to point the camera so the physician can get the best view of the area in question.

Falastein says telehealth also opens doors to bring families, patients and health-care providers together for case conferences, discharge planning and even family visits. “We recently had a series of weekly sessions at Royal University Hospital connecting a family with their young daughter who was a patient in a Winnipeg hospital. One of these sessions was even held at St. Paul’s Hospital to include a grandmother who was a patient there. They were very appreciative to keep their family together in this way.”

Telehealth Coordinator Jennifer Falastein demonstrates the new Telehealth system at Rosthern Hospital. Photo courtesy: Rod Andrews, Saskatchewan Valley News

Health-care providers, both rural and urban, benefit by receiving continuing education lectures using telehealth. Many Health Region departments broadcast their educational grand rounds to colleagues at telehealth sites within the province, and as far as Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon.

Public health education is also delivered via telehealth. “This is a great opportunity for rural residents to receive current information from groups such as the Canadian Diabetes Association, MS Society, Alzheimer’s Society and Women’s Midlife Health Centre in their home communities,” says Falastein.

“Anther feature of telehealth is the ability to allow health-care professionals to attend meetings with their colleagues in other locations,” says Falastein, “which will reduce travel time and associated costs.”

Up until the Rosthern telehealth cart was acquired, the only other rural telehealth site was Humboldt. More discussions are being held about expanding telehealth into other areas.

Currently, there are 15 telehealth locations in the Health Region including hospitals in Saskatoon, Humboldt and Rosthern as well as Parkridge Centre, the Kinsmen Children’s Centre and Child and Youth Mental Health Services at the Nursing Auxiliary Wing (NAW).

“It’s an innovative and potentially cost-saving method of meeting, sharing information and providing health care,” says Falastein.