The Beauty of Telemedicine

Summer 2005 CSANews Issue 55  |  Posted date : May 20, 2007.Back to list

Thanks to technology, physicians don't always need to see their patients in order to diagnose medical problems and to recommend treatment. Remote access health care links patients to physicians through hi-tech tools, such as specialized digital cameras, photographic cell phones and video conferencing equipment. By participating in remote access health care, or "telemedicine," patients who live in remote areas or who are physically unable to travel can reduce the number of trips they make to their physician, as well as the number of hours waiting in the office.

There are various projects throughout Canada that employ telemedicine to facilitate medical treatment. One example is the SLICK project (for diabetes care) in Alberta, in which trained photographers travel to First Nations reserves to take photos of patients' retinas with a specially designed digital camera. These images are then examined by an ophthalmologist hundreds of kilometres away. The outcome of this particular project has been a decrease in diabetes complications, emergency room visits and hospitalization.

Currently, there are no figures regarding the financial impact that this type of medical treatment has on Canada's health-care system. However, with fewer ambulance trips and shorter hospital visits, it is speculated that telemedicine, in certain cases, can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional medical practices.