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Telemedicine network is officially launched

TORONTO – The Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) celebrated its official launch with a multi-site announcement that showcased how its videoconferencing and IT facilitate access to care for thousands of people across the province.

OTN’s goal is the seamless integration of telemedicine into everyday healthcare delivery. By the end of 2006, OTN will have offered telemedicine solutions to every hospital in the province and expanded its activities in other sectors, including clinics, public health, long-term care homes, mental health and community care.

The benefits of telemedicine are significant and include:

• improved access to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals;

• timely access to emergency services, regardless of time and distance; and

• reduced time, cost and risk of travel for patients, families and healthcare providers, thereby minimizing the disruption of their daily working lives.

OTN is the result of an April 1 merger of three award-winning, provincially funded telemedicine Networks – CareConnect, NORTH Network and VideoCare. Together, they were responsible for more than 23,000 patient consultations in 2005/06, as well as educational opportunities for thousands of health professionals.

The OTN’s executive committee consists of:

Edward M. Brown, MD, Chief Executive Officer (pictured, at left)
An emergency physician who studied mathematics and engineering before embarking on his medical career, Dr. Brown (pictured) combined these skills in 1998 when he founded NORTH Network. NORTH Network evolved out of Dr. Brown’s examination of how telehealth could overcome the barriers to posed by long distances and a shortage of health professionals in Northern Ontario. He recommended the creation of a comprehensive telemedicine program connecting thousands of patients with healthcare providers. Dr. Brown sits on numerous boards and advisory committees, including Ontario’s E-Physician Council.

Kathryn Crone, Regional Vice President and Clinical, Education and Training Programs
Over the past two decades, Ms. Crone has held numerous positions in the clinical setting including staff nurse, clinical leader, clinical educator and Nursing Administration Coordinator. Her clinical focus has been in Pediatric Medicine, Oncology, and Adult Cardiology. Following her clinical career, Ms. Crone worked with the Senior Management team at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario as Project Manager, responsible for initiatives such as Sharpening our Focus on Patients and Families, disaster planning, work redesign, workload measurement and telehealth. For the past six years, Ms. Crone has led the development of telehealth in eastern Ontario, first as Project Manager of the Eastern Ontario Telehealth Network and then as Executive Director of CareConnect. Ms. Crone has undergraduate degrees in Nursing and Education and a Masters Degree in Education (Administration).

Neil MacLean, Regional Vice President, Corporate Development and Performance
Mr. MacLean holds a PhD in Medical Biophysics from the University of Western Ontario, and an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University. In 1998, he left a position as co-Director of a research lab and was hired by London Health Sciences Centre to develop regional integration opportunities between London and the acute care hospital. In 2000, Mr. MacLean became the Manager of VideoCare, theSouthwestern Ontario Telehealth Network. In his role as Manager, he oversaw VideoCare’s day-to-day operations and led the relationship-building that drives the success of the telemedicine programs in the Southwest. Mr. MacLean is an active member of both the Canadian Society of Telehealth and the American Telemedicine Association and is a certified member of the Canadian College of Health Services Executives.

Ron Riesenbach, Chief Information Officer
Mr. Riesenbach’s broad career has focused on the management and application of information technology to improve economic prosperity and quality of life. He has led an interesting career ranging from research scientist, technology manager, academic program director, high-tech entrepreneur and most recently, Chief Information Officer at NORTH Network. Mr. Riesenbach brings extensive experience in the management of technology from the active role he played in the transformation of other sectors, including finance, manufacturing, telecommunications and publishing. Mr. Riesenbach holds an MSc in Electrical Engineering and an MBA and is currently pursuing a part-time BSc to enhance his knowledge of Biology and Chemistry.

Lisa Sarsfield, Regional Vice President, Corporate Services
Ms. Sarsfield has worked in the Ontario healthcare system for more than 20 years and has held director positions in the areas of professional practice, quality, risk and redesign. Holding undergraduate and graduate degrees in Social Work, Ms. Sarsfield spent the past five years putting these skills to good use in facilitating the adoption and integration of technology into the clinical practice of healthcare practitioners. As Chief Operating Officer at NORTH Network, Ms. Sarsfield was responsible for a wide range of organizational issues, including membership services, service development, education, training, human resources and administration, research and evaluation, communications and government relations.

Rob Williams, MD, Chief Medical Officer
A founding partner of NORTH Network, Dr. Williams has been NORTH’s Medical Director since1998. Prior to his work at NORTH, Dr. Williams spent 15 years as Chief of Staff at Timmins and District Memorial Hospital, and has contributed his experience as a management and eHealthconsultant for provincial and federal health organizations for two decades. Most recently, Dr. Williams served as the MOHLTC member of the Physician Human Resources Committee of the Physician Services Committee, as a member of the Report Card Advisory Committee of the OHA/MOHLTC and as a member of the Registration Committee for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

“The commitment and innovation of OTN’s partner organizations and the healthcare professionals of Ontario have made the province a leader in the field of telemedicine,” said Dr. Ed Brown, Chief Executive Officer of OTN. “By operating as one network, OTN has increased its capacity to enhance access to care for people across the province by reducing the barriers of time and distance.”

Both Canada Health Infoway (CHI) and Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long Term Care provided funding to support the integration. As a result, OTN has made Ontario the most sophisticated and extensive telemedicine environment in Canada, delivering its programs and services to over 300 sites and covering every geographic region in the province.

“As a champion of Canadian telehealth and a strategic investor in its development, Infoway has enthusiastically invested in the OTN,” said Richard Alvarez, President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway. “We staunchly support the commitments of our provincial and federal governments to improving timely access to quality healthcare,” he added.

“The Ontario Telemedicine Network improves access to important healthcare services and is a valuable resource to people in under-serviced areas,” said George Smitherman, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “By connecting healthcare professionals to patients who live in isolated communities, OTN is building on our government’s plan to strengthen our healthcare system through innovation and delivering quality care to patients.”

Telemedicine has the potential to be a key enabler in the transformation of healthcare delivery, supporting a patient-focused, results-driven, integrated and sustainable healthcare system.

The Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) is one of the busiest and most comprehensive telemedicine programs in Canada. Using advanced information communication technologies and electronic medical devices, OTN supports the delivery of clinical care, professional education and health-related administrative services at more than 360 urban and rural sites across the province.

OTN is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. To learn more about OTN, please visit