Can Technology Increase Access to Health Care? The Answer Might Surprise You…

Technology is helping the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre overcome barriers to care including distance and isolation. Teledermatology, for example, can help patients get a diagnosis in days rather than months.

Technology is connecting us more than ever – and that’s a good thing when it comes to health care. It means faster, better care for our patients and helping us overcome geographical barriers to care, among other challenges.

The Teledermatology Program through the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) is a great case in point. The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s Telemedicine Department launched access to the program earlier this year, helping patients with severe skin conditions get specialist help faster. Previously, it would take six months or more to get an appointment with a dermatologist anywhere in Ontario. But thanks to the Teledermatology Program, doctors can get results back for their patients within a week – and sometimes as fast as overnight.

That’s because the technology is actually changing the way doctors review patient files. Now, a Registered Nurse with the program in Thunder Bay takes pictures of the patient’s skin condition with a digital camera, asks a list of pre-determined questions, and sends the information to the dermatologists with the Teledermatology program. This saves the dermatologists a lot of time, which means they can evaluate more patients faster.

(Incidentally, any clinic or doctor’s office can access the OTN’s Teledermatology program through Telemedicine – all they need is a digital camera.)

After the dermatologist makes a provisional diagnosis, most skin conditions can be treated with the oversight of a family physician. The dermatologist’s report includes current recommendations and a working plan for the referring physician/nurse practitioner to follow with their patients. Dermatologists with the program will take on those patients who do require more extensive care.

Overall, the use of this technology significantly reduces their workload, leading to faster, better care for our patients.

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