North Island Midweek

Doctor on line one

With a few clicks of a mouse, Sharon Knox of Union Bay was able to see and talk to her doctor in Victoria, have her heart and lungs checked and complete a consultation without having to leave the Comox Valley.

Knox is one of a number of growing patients utilizing TeleCardiology — a live, two-way video conferencing technology to connect heart patients living in rural and remote communities across Vancouver Island.

The sessions connect patients with cardiac and internal medicine specialists in Victoria, Nanaimo and Campbell River, minimizing travel, stress and costs associated with long distance medical appointments.

“It saves a lot of time and travel,” added Knox. “You’ve got to get up at six in the morning to get out of the house to get down for your appointments in Victoria, and you’re not there for that long. This way, it’s only about an hour’s time.”

During a demonstration at the Comox Valley Nursing Centre on Wednesday, Knox consulted with her cardiologist, Dr. Elizabeth Swiggum, who examined Knox’s heartbeat and lungs with a digital stethoscope at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria.

The technology enabled Swiggum to listen to Knox’s heart in real time with both auditory and visual functionality.

Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) is the first health authority in the British Columbia to roll out the TeleCardiology program using the digital, bluetooth-enabled stethoscopes.

“This is a great opportunity to collaborate with IT, with the other care providers throughout Vancouver Island,” said Swiggum.

“We’re forming bonds with not only the patient, but allowing patients to get their care locally.

“This is an opportunity to not only have the clinical evaluation, but also the physical face-to-face visit with these patients.”

VIHA has 32 digital stethoscopes, and three to four TeleCardiology appointments are performed per month at the nursing centre, but the technology is used in other locations. Fourteen VIHA programs provide telehealth services in 17 different communities at 41 different sites.

The telehealth program began in 2007, and more than 7,700 telehealth consults have taken place.

Don Hubbard, VIHA board chair added in addition to TeleCardiology, telehealth is used by oncology, psychiatry, genetics, thoracic surgery, speech pathology and other health services.

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