Spring 2005

I n f o r m a t i o n   T e c h n o l o g y
Teleoncology program launched
 
Cancer care for patients in the province is now easier and more convenient through the use of distance technology.

Cancer care for patients in the province is now easier and more convenient through the use of distance technology.

Since its January launch, the Newfoundland and Labrador teleoncology pilot program has developed guidelines and training, undertaken promotion of the program and begun implementation, completing six patient consults up to early March. Plans are now in place to establish a half-day a week teleoncology clinic.

The primary objective of the program is to demonstrate the effective development, integration and sustainability of telehealth into cancer services delivery between the Newfoundland Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation (NCTRF) and participating health boards, using the resources of the Telehealth and Education Technology Resource Agency (TETRA) of Memorial University.

“This program will support cancer services throughout the province through tele-consultations, the transmission of medical information and the provision of education and training for cancer professionals, patients, families, relatives and support groups,” said Dr. Max House, principal investigator for the teleoncology program and professor emeritus.

“Travel for medical care has always been a considerable problem in this province and this is especially so for patients with cancer who often have to make frequent visits during their care,” added Dr. House. “The teleoncology program could reduce some of this traveling by allowing some parts of cancer care to be provided in or near patients’ home community. For years, I've wanted to expand the use of telemedicine/telehealth in cancer care for patients who live in rural and more isolated areas of this province. With this program I am confident that this is going to happen.”

Dr. Kara Laing, director of medical oncology with the NCTRF, said the telehealth initiative will enable the NCTRF’s patients to receive some of their cancer care close to home where they have the support of family, friends and community. “Core care involves a multidisciplinary team and we hope that these resources will be utilized by the physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, nutritionists and all others involved to provide direct patient care, participate in patient care conferences and for ongoing education.”

The teleoncology program is expected to cost about $800,000 over 18 months. In addition to the Department of Health and Community Services, TETRA and the Cancer Foundation, financial support has already been provided by the Lawson Foundation and Novartis Oncology Canada.

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Nexus is published quarterly for Newfoundland and Labrador's physicians. It is a forum for the exchange of views, ideas and information for members.