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BCATPR Virtual Clinics and Mobile Health Workshop

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On June 21st, the BC Alliance on Telehealth Policy & Research (BCATPR) will host a half-day event at SFU Harbour Centre Campus for Clinicians, policy makers, researchers and students who want to learn about new projects and advancements in the growing area of telehealth.

Scroll down to read more about the event in a Q&A with the event organizers!

1) What opportunities does telehealth present in managing chronic disease?

Telehealth has the potential to improve healthcare in a number of areas, such as allowing for a multi-disciplinary team-based approach to healthcare and the daily monitoring of symptoms. It also aims to increase patient self-management for day-to-day problems and access to healthcare for people in more remote areas. It can act as a bridge between sectors and link parts of the health-care system to increase seamlessness in the delivery of care.

2) What are the challenges of telehealth in managing chronic disease?

A large challenge is the inability to perform physical assessments on the patient, which aside from taking history provides the healthcare provider with half of the information in a normal clinic or hospital setting. This can be compensated to some extent by improving the questioning techniques, or examining the patient in person before providing care via telehealth. Another challenge is the use of home monitoring devices or technology, which have the potential to malfunction without patient knowledge. For patients with heart failure, for example, one of the signs of a worsening condition is sudden weight gain, and if they are unaware that their home scale is broken, this symptom can be overlooked. This happened in our Virtual Heart Failure study; the participant was directed to visit their GP after reporting a shortness of breath but no weight change; a subsequent physical revealed worsening heart failure along with an 8-lbs weight gain. These drawbacks require the telehealth program moderator (i.e. nurse or other healthcare professional) to stay constantly aware of all patient symptoms. Because telehealth functions in ways different from regular health care, it also requires specialized training for its administrators. The importance of staff and workplace readiness for telehealth cannot be overstated because all aspects of the regular healthcare work environment will be affected. Telehealth should complement care that already exists (it is not meant to replace the existing face-to-face visits) and address a gap in service delivery that cannot be met in any other way. Every effort should be made to integrate telehealth into the already existing structure of our healthcare system and that of existing health organizations and providers.

3) What do you see as the future direction for telehealth?

Telehealth is a growing field which has the potential to improve healthcare in terms of cost, time, accessibility and patient satisfaction. However, because this is an emerging field, more evidence with regards to effectiveness and best practices still need to be developed before a broader implementation of the programs can take place.

4) If you could only attend one presentation at the workshop, which one would it be and why?

Each presentation offers a different view of telehealth applications – including programs that are tailored to aboriginal communities, cancer care, depression, children with rare diseases and chronic disease management; it would be hard to pick just one to attend.

5) Who should attend this workshop?

Clinicians, policy makers, researchers and students should attend to learn about new projects and advancements in the growing area of telehealth.