Trail’s hospital has the only intensive care unit (ICU) in the region, and any patient outside of the city who needs it has to travel. Sometimes for a critically ill or injured patient, travel time can mean the difference between life and death.
A telehealth cart can help save lives by giving initial treatment from afar.
The cart has a high-definition camera and monitor and allows live video consultations between a patient’s bedside and an ICU specialist in Trail.
Dr. Scot Mountain, head of the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital’s ICU, has been trying it out lately and gives a fictional example.
“Let’s say I have someone who is critically ill and has sepsis, which is a life threatening infection. The process of sepsis is that their organs can shut down rapidly and it can be fatal. The sooner we can get people to treatment and reverse that process, the greater chance of saving their lives.
“We get a call from a doctor Nelson. In the Nelson emergency room they have the telehealth cart. I can log into it from my computer and can drive the camera and there are speakers and microphones attached, and I can zoom in wherever I want. I can talk to the patient and the patient can see me on the monitor.
“There can be a nurse at the bedside, and I have talked to the patient or their family and found out what is happening. I can ask the nurse to listen to heart, listen to lungs, I can see blood pressure on the monitor. So it is the next best thing to being there. Then I can start to initiate meds or treatment that I would not normally be comfortable doing without actually seeing the patient.”
The telehealth system is new at the Trail hospital and has only been used a few times so far.
“The next step is to get it adopted by the physicians in the communities. Some of them are not aware of it yet. We have a similar cart set up in Nakusp and hope to get one in Grand Forks as well.”
Mountain says if it is successful in the ICU, then they may adapt it for other specialists, and this may allow some patients to be receive complete treatment in their home community without travelling to Trail at all.
He says that although variations on the telehealth system are used around the world, it is relatively new in B.C. He has had hospitals in the Lower Mainland call him to see how it is done.
“As a small rural community, we are on the leading edge of this.”
The initiative is a collaboration between Interior Health, the Kootenay Boundary Division of Family Practice and the Shared Care Committee (a partnership between Doctors of B.C. and the B.C. government).