In the spring of 2010, Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS) began to develop a cutting-edge telecommunications network, with a goal of connecting high-speed Internet to its head office in Prince George, and seven First Nations health centres within the region.
In partnership with Pathways to Technology, CSFS was able to establish connections that serve more than 11,000 people in 10 separate B.C. communities – helping the organization to provide enhanced health and family services to its band members.
With the upgrade to broadband connection came the implementation of telehealth services. Now people living in the area’s most remote and isolated communities have the chance to see a medical specialist from their local health care centre, rather than travelling several hours and hundreds of kilometres for a half-hour consultation.
"Almost immediately we saw a significant increase in our ability to deliver acute care across the region,” said Megan Hunt, Carrier Sekani’s Executive Director of Communication, Information Management and Systems.
"Now we are better prepared to manage cases of chronic disease, and can provide remote consultations with specialists for our patients living with HIV/Hepatitis, chronic kidney disease, mental health issues, addictions, all stages of cancer and other serious ailments.”
In the past, the region’s primary care physician, Dr. John Pawlovich, travelled immense distances to treat band members for one week each month. Now, with access to a high-speed Internet connection and telehealth services, the CSFS health centres can offer truly continuous care, allowing patients the opportunity to connect with a doctor they know and trust at a moment’s notice.
"When we build a relationship with the people in the communities, they’re much more likely to seek and receive the care they need,” added Dr. Pawlovich. "Having the broadband Internet connection at our health centres is revolutionizing the way we distribute medical care throughout the region.”
With the help of the Northern Health Authority, CSFS has also identified creative solutions to enhance primary care services. An online information sharing system ensures that up-to-date patient details are available for practitioners – providing accurate assessment, diagnosis, specialist reports, follow up and treatment information.
In the remote communities of Takla Lake, Yekooche, Fort Babine and Tachet, on-site nurses are receiving physician support via the telehealth connection, which has opened the doors to new treatments by developing ultrasound and prenatal services.
In all, CSFS has seen a 200% increase in patient visits since the installation of the high-speed Internet network, creating a foundation of healthcare that has never before been accessible to the region’s remote First Nations communities.
Regardless of the geographical challenges, Carrier Sekani’s local health professionals and patients are now receiving the support they need to ensure a healthier future for their communities.
Posted: October 2, 2013