Telemedicine And Remote Surgery In The Canadian Health Environment

3842 words - 15 pages

Telemedicine and Remote Surgery in the Canadian Health EnvironmentBackgroundTo place remote surgery in context, it is important to understand telemedicine technologies and to examine telemedicine capabilities that are used in Canada. Telemedicine is defined as "..the use of electronic information, imaging and communication technologies to provide and support health care when distance separates the participants." 1 This includes transmitting voice, data, images and patient vitals. Remote surgery involves remote manipulation of medical equipment to conduct medical procedures and is a form of telemedicine technology. Telemedicine is described as "one of the most promising aspects of the Canadian health care system……and a mechanism for improving access to health care services for rural and remote communities." 2 Remote robotic surgery is an extension of laparoscopic surgery where surgery is performed by manipulating straight instruments while viewing the instruments on a monitor. Robotic surgery offers improvements over laparoscopy since computers can provide better information on patient status, three dimensional positioning of instruments, better monitoring of the procedure and physical feedback to the surgeon mimicking pressure and resistance that would be encountered in a hands-on procedure. As well, with robotic surgery, the location of the surgeon and his console can be remote from the patient.There is a permissive environment in Canada for telemedicine and experimental projects such as the proposed remote surgery initiative. Federal and provincial governments are aligned to leverage technology to improve health services. In 1999, the Federal Government embarked upon a program to advance implementing innovative health care service delivery through applications of advanced information and communications technologies (ICT). ICT is needed to significantly improve accessibility and quality of health service delivery while increasing efficiency and protecting the long-term financial viability of the health care system. The First Ministers' Agreement of 2000 identified the development of health information and communications technologies as one of Canada's top healthcare priorities. 3 The 2003 Accord on Health Care Renewal and 2004 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Healthcare confirmed commitments by of a pan-Canadian private and secure EHR. 4,5 The EHR supports the implementation of other telemedicine applications, such as teleradiology, telehomecare and remote surgical projects through providing reliable patient information to healthcare providers engaged in remote service delivery.To address this national health infostructure priority, the Government of Canada created Canada Health Infoway, an independent not-for-profit corporation that was mandated to accelerate the development and use of information technologies across the national health care system. 6 It has become a catalyst for new health infostructure developments. The Federal...

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