box10.gif (1299 bytes)








Saskatchewan moves to licence telemedicine consults

REGINA – The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan has decided doctors who counsel or diagnose Saskatchewan patients through video, telephone or the Internet are technically practising medicine in the province and should be licensed in Saskatchewan.

The college’s council passed a bylaw spelling out new rules governing the practice of so-called telemedicine in Saskatchewan, college lawyer and associate registrar Bryan Salte told the Star-Phoenix newspaper.

The rules will take effect as soon as they’re approved by Health Minister Don McMorris.

Last fall, Salte told the college council he knew of at least two cases where patients had to travel out-of-province – one to Calgary and the other to Toronto – to see doctors, when the same consultation could have happened by videoconference.

“It usually saves the patients a great deal of challenge, or inconvenience, if they can simply go to a telemedicine centre in Saskatoon when the physician’s in Edmonton,” Salte said. “It avoids them having to do all that travel.”

Also, several out-of-province doctors have contacted the college, saying they’d be willing to see Saskatchewan patients remotely, but Salte was unable to say whether they’d be breaking the law.

Doctors’ insurance coverage could also be a problem. If a (hypothetical) B.C. physician jumps in to provide an emergency consultation to a Saskatchewan patient “out of the goodness of his or her heart,” a physician could face serious consequences for practising somewhere insurance doesn’t cover them, Salte said.

If adopted, Canadian doctors can apply through a simplified licensing procedure, in which they prove they have the credentials to be licensed in Saskatchewan. If they plan on seeing fewer than 13 patients a year via teleconference, the license would be free.

Those seeing between 13 and 52 patients will need to pay a $250 licensing fee and doctors who will see more than 52 patients will need to shell out the $1,430 for a regular Saskatchewan license.

Telemedicine has the potential to become increasingly important in the field of radiology, Salte said. The province’s hospitals are in the process of digitizing imaging tests like CT scans, MRIs and X-rays, so once captured, the images could be viewed by health professionals across the province – or beyond, if necessary.

“With the digitalization of those images, it means you can interpret those images easily in your office, or in Vancouver, or in Toronto,” Salte said.

Salte said he also knows of an epilepsy clinic in Edmonton that has been seeing some pediatric Saskatchewan patients. Some similar consultations could be done via videoconference.
Saskatchewan is one of the last provinces in Canada to move to regulate telemedicine, despite a national recommendation a decade ago saying the provinces should adopt consistent rules governing the practice.