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Spotlight: St. Paul’s Hospital telecardiology service for heart failure patients

Dr. Simone Cowan, St. Paul's Hospital

Cardiologist Dr. Cowan meets with patients remotely 

Did you know that around 75% of St. Paul’s Hospital’s (SPH) heart failure patients live outside of the Vancouver area?  In fact, a large proportion of the patients referred to the provincial program are from remote areas of the province.
It is well known that patients who live in these remote areas face many challenges when they have illnesses that require a specialist visit.  They travel many kilometres, sometimes in dangerous weather conditions; they may not have the financial or family resources to make the trip; and they almost certainly have difficulty finding somewhere affordable to stay in Vancouver while they see the doctor.
Many inroads have been made to provide support to patients in their local communities in the areas of mental health, dermatology and even neurology.  Heart failure care is complicated and requires support of a cardiologist to set up a realistic treatment plan.  
The Heart Centre at SPH has been using telehealth in partnership with their colleagues in the North to see some of these cardiac patients and work with their local community resources to provide the best possible care for them. Dr. Simone Cowan, a cardiologist at St Paul's Hospital, together with Dr. John Pawlovich, a Family Practice doctor in northern BC, hopes to expand not only specialist heart failure care to additional remote communities in the north, but ensure they have access to quaternary care such as heart transplantation and other services provided at the site, while aiming to keep patients and families as much as possible in their own communities.

E-prescribing service coming to Canada

Canada Health Infoway PrescribeIT

Canada Health Infoway is working to develop a new e-prescribing service, PrescribeIT, which will enable prescribers (physicians and nurse practitioners) to electronically transmit a prescription to a patient’s pharmacy of choice. By reducing paper prescriptions, the program aims to improve medication management and patient safety. It will also be able to generate analytics to identify health system trends and inform future health policy decisions.



New online tool for simplifying health information

AGE-WELL simplifies health information
A new program funded by AGE-WELL, a national research network in technology and aging, will simplify digital health information at the click of a button to match users' individual reading levels. It will be available as a browser add-on for anyone to use and will be particularly useful for seniors struggling to understand online information. The tool will use artificial intelligence and natural-language processing to transform the language of web content.



Providence Health Care to implement new text messaging policy


Providence Health Care (PHC) is leading the way with the development and implementation of a policy to use SMS (text messaging) as part of enhancing communication around patient care.

With the increase in providers and patients owning mobile phones and using text messaging to communicate on a daily basis, PHC has begun developing a policy to guide health care providers in the appropriate use of text messaging in patient care. The policy is founded on principles for enhancing health care communication while respecting patient privacy and the security of patient information. It is in no way a replacement for face-to-face patient consultations. Developed by a committee of decision-makers, providers and privacy experts, the policy will undergo consultation with the broader PHC community before being implemented later this year.


AHRQ Report shows evidence for telehealth success in remote monitoring for chronic conditions


The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently published an evidence map of the effectiveness of new health care technologies in providing care for a number of common medical conditions. Conditions included cardiovascular disease, diabetes, physical rehabilitation, intensive care unit support and others.

Telehealth evidence map conditions

Distribution of clinical focus across included systematic reviews


The report found that sufficient evidence exists for the effectiveness of telehealth in remote patient monitoring, communication and counseling for patients with chronic conditions and in psychotherapy as part of behavioral health. They suggest more studies and systematic reviews to be done in the areas of maternal and child health consultation, triage for urgent care and the impact of telehealth in new health care organizational and payment models.