Doctors introduce telehealth technology

Long distances and driving conditions can make it difficult for some patients in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region to get to a doctor’s office.

  • Jun. 10, 2015 11:00 a.m.

Long distances and challenging driving conditions can make it difficult for some patients in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region to get to a doctor’s office, so a group of physicians in the region is turning to telemedicine to ensure their patients have consistent access to a primary care provider.

The Central Interior Rural Division of Family Practice and the First Nations Health Authority are working together to introduce telehealth technology making it easier for some family physicians to provide ongoing care to their patients in rural and First Nations communities.

“We know that having a primary care provider can mean better health for individuals, as well as communities,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “And tailoring community solutions for greater accessibility to primary care especially in rural and remote locations, like the Division has done in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, strengthens our health care system as a whole.”

Telemedicine is just one of the strategies being implemented by the Central Interior Rural Division of Family Practice as part of A GP for Me.

A GP for Me is a joint initiative of the Government of B.C. and Doctors of BC aiming to improve access to primary care across the province and help more British Columbians who want a primary care provider to find one.

The division’s strategies, which are being introduced this spring include:

•    Improved access to primary care through Telehealth services in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, developed in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority will start with a group of six doctors using telemedicine technology to provide care to patients in rural First Nations communities. This strategy also sees the Provincial Health Services Authority and Interior Health working with family doctors to increase awareness of First Nations culture through Indigenous Cultural Competency Training.

•    A program designed to help doctors keep up to date with the latest office technologies, as well as increase their awareness and knowledge of new models of health care, including team-based care which encourages a more community-based approach to care, will help support patients while making the best use of existing capacity and services.

• A co-ordinator will work with key partners to help find locums and work towards ensuring patients are taken care of when a doctor takes time off or retires, and to attract new doctors to the area.

“Many of our residents live in rural or First Nations communities,” said Dr Glenn Fedor, chair of the CIRD. “This presents unique challenges but we feel that using the latest technology, and partnering with other health and community service organizations will allow us to make a significant improvement in the level and quality of care available to patients in the Cariboo- Chilcotin.”