Infectious Disease Telemedicine Services in Northern British Columbia

November 20, 2017

Dr. Abuobeida Hamour

Dr. Abuobeida Hamour and Sophie Walton conducted a project aiming to understand patient perceptions of the infectious disease telemedicine service offered through Dr. Hamour’s medical clinic in Prince George, BC. They collected their data through a patient satisfaction survey and also examined the uptake and demographics of patients, through a chart review, who have used the telemedicine service since its introduction in January 2013.

Telehealth allows for the provision of a variety of healthcare services from a distance and improves access to services, especially for people living in rural and remote areas. These healthcare services offered from a distance can include triage, clinical session, telehomecare, and remote patient monitoring, education, and administrative support. Telehealth not only enhances care delivery to underserved populations, but is also a cost effective means of delivering care. The savings from telehealth can outweigh the expenses associated with implementing telehealth, for example, by saving on emergency visits, travel distance, and time.

A report entitled, “Supporting the Development of Telehealth for British Columbia First Nations Living on Reserves: A Review of Existing Evidence” outlines telehomecare, chronic disease management, and mental health as telehealth service areas deserving attention in First Nations communities. In 2013, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control Annual Surveillance Report on HIV identified that the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses were in the Vancouver Coast and Northern Health Authorities. Aboriginal Peoples are disproportionately represented in B.C.’s HIV epidemic.

They comprise 11-17% of all new HIV diagnosis while comprising only approximately 5% of the total provincial population. Providing specialist follow up care for patients with HIV and Hepatitis C using telemedicine may help to improve continuity of care and patient outcomes. As such, the telemedicine initiative established at the clinic of Dr. Abu Hamour was initiated to enhance the follow up care provided to those patients in Northern British Columbia living with HIV and Hepatitis C, a portion of who identify as aboriginal peoples.

As the use and breadth of telemedicine grows it is important to open communication with the patients using the service to continually evaluate its successes and shortcomings. This project aims to do just that in order to inform future care delivered by Dr. Hamour’s clinic.

The chart review surveyed patients in the Northern Health Authority that had utilized the telemedicine service from January 1, 2013 to July 21, 2017. In total, 210 individual patients used the service with the telemedicine terminal being used for 601 medical appointments.

Patient satisfaction surveys were administered to a total of fifty patients. Overall, feedback from respondents about the telemedicine service was positive with 98% of respondents stating they would use the telemedicine service again and would recommend this service to a friend. For more information on the results and findings of this project, please review the full report. Dr. Hamour is currently seeking Physician Quality Improvement (PQI) funding to support an additional 50 patient interviews to further the project.