Registered nurses Nancy Halstead and Emilie Gordon are using their skills to support technology that links Waterloo Region patients to specialists in other cities.
Emilie and Nancy care for patients who visit GRH to undergo telemedicine appointments. When a specialist is not available locally, Emilie and Nancy will bring the patient to GRH, arrange specialized videoconferencing technology and provide clinical support such as conducting physical exams as appointments take place.
They also use a specialized camera which provides magnification and detailed close up views of wounds or anatomy based on a physician’s needs.
Through technology provided via the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), patients are connecting with specialists all over the province. Emilie and Nancy are active partners in helping patients become comfortable with these types of appointments, and making sure they get the care they need.
What have been your main areas of expertise in nursing care?
Emilie: I have been a nurse for 15 years, all here at Grand River Hospital. I started out in the emergency department, moved to the post-anesthetic care unit and most recently have been working in the intensive care unit and as member of the critical care response team.
Nancy: I have also been a nurse here at Grand River Hospital for 15 years. I started out in the medicine program before moving to the stroke program where I worked as a floor nurse for 10 years and then resource nurse for two years. Since 2015, I have been working in the secondary stroke prevention and telemedicine clinics.
What drew you to telemedicine?
Emilie: We like the ability to use technology to help patients achieve their health care goals. Telemedicine is able to remove barriers to care such as, geographical distance.
Nancy: Technology is being used more and more in health care and telemedicine is the next evolution in delivering patient-centered care.
Who would need to access telemedicine at GRH?
Emilie: Patients who live in a rural community who would otherwise have to travel long distances to see a specialist are able to connect virtually with their care providers. This results in improved access to care, more efficient care delivery and promotes collaboration between providers.
What do patients expect when they hear they have a telemedicine appointment?
Nancy: Patients can expect that they will still see their health care provider but virtually. With the capabilities of teleconferencing technology, patients can see and hear their provider much the same way they would if they were seeing them face to face.
As nurses, we help conduct physical exams and assessments depending on the needs of the consultant on the other end of the call.
How do you think nurses make telemedicine work better for patients?
Emilie: Nurses are able to reach patients in remote areas or who have mobility needs. We are able to monitor the patient’s condition and interact with them just as we would if we saw them face-to-face.
Our scope of practice doesn’t change with telemedicine. We act as advocates and a liaison between the patient and the health care provider. We are able to replicate the traditional face-to-face visit.
After a patient has used a telemedicine appointment, how do they describe their experience?
Nancy: after a brief discussion about what to expect and a few minutes into the appointment, patients are very satisfied after their telemedicine visit. They appreciate the visit because it saves them from potentially day-long excursions to a larger centre for an hour-long appointment. Their questions and concerns are addressed and any follow up can be done locally.
How has telemedicine changed over the years?
Emilie: Telemedicine has evolved to keep pace with emerging technologies. Care providers can connect to their patients using their own laptops and even connect with their smartphones. It’s not just physicians using telemedicine… nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers and dietitians are able to connect with patients.
How do you see telemedicine changing in the years to come?
Nancy: I think we will see a change in the way we deliver care to patients. It’s very beneficial if patients can potentially see their health care provider in either their local family health team or in the comfort of their own home.