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Canada improves healthcare access with telehealth systems: National study

Canada is improving healthcare access by connecting patients and care providers in different and frequently remote locations with telehealth systems, according to a new national study commissioned by Canada Health Infoway, an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government.

The study, entitled ‘Telehealth Benefits and Adoption – Connecting People and Providers Across Canada,’ indicated that almost 260,000 Telehealth sessions were held in 2010, supporting services such as remote care, education for health providers and administrative meetings.

Nearly half of the clinical telehealth sessions delivered care to patients from rural and remote communities, which are home to 21% of Canadians.

The report estimates that Canadians who received care via telehealth rather than travelling to other communities for care saved about $70m in personal travel costs in 2010.

In addition, there were benefits to the health system valued at $55m per year (e.g. because of avoided federal or provincial subsidized travel costs or reduced hospitalizations for patients with chronic diseases).

The report’s findings are based on utilization data provided by the Canadian Telehealth Forum of COACH: Canada’s Health Informatics Association, the organization representing Canada’s telehealth community.

Manitoba eHealth Coordination of Care director and Canadian Telehealth Forum COACH Board member and chairman Liz Loewen said they are well on their way, however, as noted in the report, critical success factors including change management and adoption must be addressed in order to fully realize telehealth’s potential."

Praxia Information Intelligence and Gartner conducted the study.