NIRD/Northern Health videoconferencing project improves access to care in rural communities

A videoconferencing initiative started by Northern Interior Rural division doctors is improving access to care for patients in northern BC. The Robson Valley Virtual Medicine project—a collaboration between the Northern Interior Rural division (NIRD) and Northern Health—uses videoconferencing technology to connect two neighboring rural emergency departments, enabling physicians who share on-call duties to see patients immediately without needing to travel from one hospital to the other. The technology has also facilitated physician-to-physician communication during acute emergencies. 

The success of the pilot project has resulted in the division receiving further FPSC funding to upscale the work. This additional funding will be used to improve patient access to Patient Medical Homes and Primary Care Networks through telehealth technology, and physicians are envisioning other innovative applications for the technology as well. 

In addition to facilitating team-based care through virtual connections between doctors and other providers, videoconferencing technology could be used as an avenue for training students, doctors, and international medical graduates in the Practice Ready Assessment program. This advancement would be especially relevant to new physicians who may not initially feel comfortable treating complex cases encountered in a rural setting (which could be referred elsewhere in a larger population centre).

The ability to instantly connect to other GPs and specialists through hand-held cameras and videoconferencing stations would support new physicians in rural practice, allow for development of a virtual community of practice, and aid recruitment and retention efforts in rural communities. 
NIRD is in the process of scaling this work across all communities in its region, and the division continues to collaborate with Northern Health to improve access and health outcomes for patients in the region using telehealth technology.

To learn more about NIRD’s work on telehealth, read the Division’s Spring 2018 Reflections newsletter.