BURK’S FALLS – Receiving specialized healthcare just got easier in Almaguin.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know this way is easier,” said Burk’s Falls Family Heath Team patient Shirley Taylor of Sundridge. “If I couldn’t come here and talk to my specialist in Sudbury, I would have to drive all the way to Sudbury for a five-minute appointment.”
Thanks to the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) in Burk’s Falls, Taylor is able to see and speak to her doctor electronically rather than make the trek north.
“It’s fantastic,” she said. “I’m fortunate that I can still drive. There are a lot of elderly people in this area. Some of them are so crippled that traveling is impossible. Even if you can get a ride, you have to consider the gas and the time.”
Finding a driver might also become an issue if the person has to take time off of work to help out.
“It’s a shame more people don’t know this is here,” said Taylor.
Making this service known is the mission of newly appointed OTN coordinator Brittany Lindsay RPN.
“To me, this is just a great idea – especially in a rural area,” said Lindsay. “It saves time and money not having to travel and it’s covered by OHIP.”
Lindsay has spent the past few weeks visiting local doctors to explain the service, which is open to all patients, not just those on the roster of the Health Team.
“It opens up a lot of new doors,” said Lindsay. “We had a patient in yesterday for a pre-op where, if we didn’t provide this service, the person would have had to travel two hours to get to the North Bay hospital. Now they can have it all done right here in Burk’s Falls.”
The Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) is one of the largest telemedicine networks in the world. Using two-way videoconferencing, OTN provides access to care for patients in every hospital and hundreds of other health care locations across the province.
Under the OTN umbrella is a dermatology program where patients can submit photos of their ailment electronically. A dermatologist then examines the images and forwards a diagnosis and treatment plan directly to the patient’s family doctor.
The Burk’s Falls equipment was purchased through a grant from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine at a cost of about $20,000.
The system has proven to be invaluable to patients and doctors alike, as the doctors use the equipment to host video seminars each week keeping them up-to-date and informed on anything new in the world of medicine, as well as learning from each others experiences and stories.
“The doctors felt it was really important for us to have this, so kudos to the doctors and to the LHIN (Local Health Integration Network),” said Laurie Hutcheson executive director of the Health Team. “This program suits the LHIN’s goal of having more people aging at home.”
Hutcheson said the program is helpful to doctors in treating patients more efficiently and takes a load of burden off of patients who need to travel.
“I think a lot of doctors actually prefer this system because the patient is less stressed out and tired from the drive and the anticipation of driving back home,” she said.
The OTN program is available to all members of the community. Anyone who thinks the service could be of benefit to them should discuss it with their family physician.