What if you needed to see your doctor, but he was at another facility? How could you connect with him without physically travelling to another location?

Team Four of Saskatoon Health Region’s Better Every Day 14 Day Challenge is looking at video consulting as a solution to that.

The premise is that doctors could perform remote assessments of patients via a secure video link instead of having the patient or physician travel with the goal of providing a timely and high-quality service.

Through the 14 Day Challenge, Team Four was looking at the number of specialists who had patients coming to emergency departments – the one at Royal University Hospital (RUH) in particular – for consultations, noted Diane Shendruk, Director, Adult Medicine and Complex Care, and a member of Team Four.  One of the specialties involved was neurology, which is primarily focused at RUH, but often called upon to see patients at many locations throughout the region and province.

The team felt video consulting might be an effective way to expedite neurology consults at other inpatient facilities and therefore improve patient care.

Dr. Gary Hunter, neurologist, consults with a patient and family at St. Paul’s Hospital (photo altered to protect privacy) while in his office at Royal University Hospital using Vidyo technology.

Dr. Gary Hunter, neurologist, consults with a patient and family at St. Paul’s Hospital (photo altered to protect privacy) while in his office at Royal University Hospital using Vidyo technology.

“We also knew Dr. Gary Hunter, a neurologist, had an interest in using technology,” Shendruk noted.

So they decided to use neurology, working with Dr. Hunter in particular, to trial this new idea

This trial will involve using Vidyo™ technology, which offers HD-quality video communications, and is approved for use by health care organizations. Unlike the TeleHealth system, which has been in existence for a while, the Vidyo conferences will use a laptop, and will not have to be prebooked. It will be a consultation on demand.

“It’s similar to Skype, but is health-secure,” Shendruk explained, so the doctor will be able to both see and hear his patients in real time.

Once the technology is in place, the doctor will be able to use it to do a visual assessment of a patient who is in another facility in Saskatoon, or elsewhere in the Region.

“He’ll be able to determine how urgent the patient’s need is without having them travel to him,” Shendruk noted.

And as the technology will be hosted on a laptop, it will be extremely portable.

“Technology has advanced to the point where some assessments can be done remotely,” explained Dr. George Pylypchuk, who co-leads Group Four with Sandra Blevins.  “In this case, this technology will help the doctor get to the patient wherever they are, whether they are in an inpatient bed or an emergency room in another facility. The laptop will come to them.”

Dr. Hunter had put forward a proposal to pilot web-based consults, but thanks to the nature of the 14 Day Challenge, which empowers these teams to try things quickly, this proposal has been put on fast-forward and will be trialled this week.

Saskatoon Health Region’s Better Every Day 14 Day Challenge Question of the Day concerns video consultations: Would you be comfortable having a specialist assess you through video conference as opposed to in person, if this means you will be seen faster and can stay in one location?  To answer, click here.

For more stories and information about the Better Every Day 14 Day Challenge, visit www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/news.