NORTH Network to receive $5.7 million
The Ontario government is investing
$5.7 million in the NORTH Network and its telemedicine technology in
2004/2005, as a way of delivering healthcare services to more northern
communities, Minister of Health and Long Term Care, George Smitherman
(pictured at left),
“Telemedicine is proof of the power of technology in delivering quality
healthcare over vast distances,” said Smitherman. “This investment in
NORTH Network will enable thousands of northern Ontarians to receive
care in their own communities, instead of having to travel away from
their homes and families.”
The NORTH Network provides telemedicine services in northern and central
Ontario and supports over 100 sites, including 65 hospitals, 11 nursing
stations and three regional cancer centres. NORTH Network delivers a
wide range of health services in areas such as psychiatry, dermatology,
cardiology, neurology, burn management, paediatrics, and geriatrics.
Telemedicine uses video-conferencing telecommunications and digital
technology, including electronic stethoscopes, to virtually connect
patients to health professionals. There have been over 5,300 medical
consultations through NORTH Network so far in 2004, compared to a total
of 5,100 in 2003.
“It’s gratifying to know that telemedicine is acknowledged as part of
the creative solution to the transformation of healthcare in Ontario,”
said Dr. Ed Brown, Executive Director, NORTH Network. “NORTH Network is
pleased to continue to work with our many partners towards the
integration of this technology into mainstream healthcare delivery for
Telemedicine reduces wait times for health services. Patients wait less
than two weeks for telemedicine appointments through NORTH Network,
compared to waiting five weeks for out-of-town consultations with
specialists. “Telemedicine is attracting health professionals to
practice in rural and under-serviced areas because it transports the
clinical and educational expertise of teaching hospitals to even the
most remote communities,” said Smitherman.
“This announcement is important news for people living in northern
Ontario who experience barriers accessing healthcare, said Chief Charles
Fox, Head of Chiefs of Ontario. “It’s one more step towards creating a
healthcare system that responds to community needs, and is available to
The Northern Ontario Remote Telecommunication Health (NORTH) Network is
one of three large telemedicine networks in Ontario using technology to
improve access to care.
The province is providing $8 million in funding for the three networks
in 2004/05, including $5.7 million to NORTH Network.
NORTH Network currently links over 100 sites, mostly in the North,
including 65 hospitals, 11 nursing stations and three regional cancer
centres. The network will be expanded to 50 more sites in 2004/05. It is
the largest telemedicine network in the province, linking remote
northern communities to specialists and hospitals in Thunder Bay,
Sudbury and in the southern Ontario.
Earlier this year, the NORTH Network celebrated its 10,000th
telemedicine consultation and the total is now 14,700. NORTH Network has
made possible 5,355 medical consultations so far this year, compared to
a total of 5,164 in 2003.
Patients wait less than two weeks for a telemedicine appointment through
NORTH Network, whereas they may have to wait five weeks or more for an
out of town, face-to-face appointment with a medical professional.
In addition to reducing waiting times for northern patients, NORTH
Network is also helping to reduce the costs associated with travel for
Over the last two years, the average cost for a telemedicine
consultation was just under $11 compared to over $290 for each patient
to travel out of town to see a specialist.
This made possible savings totalling$1.26 million to the Northern Health
Travel Grant program between April 2001 and March 2003.
NORTH Network supports consultations in 70 medical specialties including
cardiology, burn management, dermatology, general surgery and internal
medicine. Seventy-five percent of telemedicine service activity involves
patient services with the remainder being used for consultations between
health professionals and training purposes.
There have been over 1600 educational sessions, courses and conferences
held over the Network facilities since October 2002.
There are two other telemedicine initiatives serving Ontarians:
VideoCare and CareConnect. VideoCare provides services in southwestern
Ontario at 45 hospital sites, two regional cancer care centres and three
family medical centres.
For its part, CareConnect serves eastern Ontario with links to 36
hospitals. Via telemedicine, a health professional is “transported” to a
patient at a distant healthcare facility using satellite video
technology. Using this video link, and special medical instruments such
as electronic stethoscopes or special cameras, the physician can assess
patients as if they were in the same office.