Management of infectious diseases in remote northwestern Ontario with telemedicine videoconference consultations.
Northwestern Ontario in Canada provides a unique clinical challenge for providing optimal medical care. It is a large geographic area (385,000 km(2)) and is home to 32 remote First Nations communities, most without road access. These communities suffer a heavy burden of infectious disease and specialist consultations are difficult to obtain. The Division of Infectious Diseases at the Ottawa Hospital and the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre established a telemedicine-based infectious disease consultation service in July 2014. We describe the implementation of this service, types of cases seen and patient satisfaction, as well as some of the challenges encountered. Information on visits was prospectively collected through an administrative database, and patient satisfaction surveys were administered after each initial consultation. During our first year of operation, 191 teleconsultations occurred: 76 initial consultations, 82 follow-up appointments and 33 case conferences. The scope of cases has been broad, mostly involving musculoskeletal infections (26%), followed by skin and soft tissue infections (23%). HCV, acute rheumatic fever, and respiratory infections (including pulmonary tuberculosis) were other diagnoses. Patient satisfaction has been very high and 28 telemedicine patient visits have occurred in their remote home communities, minimizing travel. The infectious disease consulting service and local clinicians have succeeded in addressing needs for care in infectious diseases in northwestern Ontario, where important gaps in service to First Nations' communities continue to exist. Regular scheduled available access to an infectious disease specialist is a well-received advancement of care in this remote region of Canada.
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