Leading the way in Continuing Medical Education for cardiovascular care

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Regional cardiac program videoconferences weekly rounds across Ontario’s Central East

Cardiologist Dr. Jason Burstein is delivering a presentation on Multi-Vessel Coronary Artery Disease to a crowded house at Rouge Valley Centenary hospital campus, which is home to the Central East Regional Cardiac Care Centre for Scarborough-Durham.

His talk today is part of weekly cardiovascular rounds, offered every Tuesday morning. However, his audience extends far beyond those in attendance in the hospital.

Using the videoconferencing capabilities of the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), these rounds reach medical professionals at several hospital sites across the vast geographical footprint of the Central East Local Heath Integration Network (LHIN).

Dr. Joe Ricci, medical director of the regional program, says, “The program is very well-integrated, even though it is diverse and very large. Using the OTN has been part of the way we have accomplished this.”

Dr. Ricci organizes the weekly rounds, planning out the presenters a year in advance.  About half of the speakers are local physicians, who are affiliated with the program, and half are from other centres. The rounds are eligible for Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits. Rouge Valley provides documentation for those participating, including cardiologists, internists, general practitioners, registered nurses, allied health, technicians and other staff. Presentations are recorded and archived.

Continuing Medical Education has long been a priority of the program and of Dr. Ricci, who has organized an annual cardiac CME event for 17 years.  With an annual attendance of 200 family physicians from Scarborough and Durham Region each year, it is one of the largest and longest running cardiac CME events in Ontario. In addition, through the leadership of Dr. Narendra Singh and the regional program, the Rouge Valley Health System cardiac care program started weekly rounds for all physicians and staff 15 years ago, reaching 20-30 people weekly. “CME is important not just to physicians but for all health care professionals, as they share and learn best practices,” says Dr. Ricci. “This improves patient care and outcomes,” he adds.

Four years ago, the regional cardiac program with support from Glyn Boatswain, director of cardiac care and oncology, and Dr. Amelia McCutcheon, vice-president of cardiac, critical care, surgery and chief nurse executive, decided to use the resources of OTN to reach out strategically as the regional cardiac care centre through education to join their partner cardiovascular care providers in the Central East LHIN. OTN is a secure, private network, with the goal of improving access to care.

With support of the hospital and industry, the education room in the cardiac care learning centre was reconfigured with OTN connectivity to multiple sites in the Central East LHIN. Scott Cowan, registered nurse, is the clinical telemedicine coordinator for the clinical and educational telemedicine program and the program coordinator for Central East LHIN regional cardiovascular education. “The first broadcast from the regional centre was on Feb. 14, 2012,” says Cowan. “We had two other sites logged on, Lakeridge and Oshawa.  Now we average at least seven sites a week, with more than 50 people participating. The majority of all hospitals in the region have some OTN capability. Our goal as a regional centre is to get every one of these sites to log on for weekly rounds,” he adds.

Dr. Ricci says, “The same infrastructure has allowed us to improve our cardiovascular patient care services.”  Rouge Valley Health System is the manager of the Central East LHIN regional cardiovascular rehabilitation service.  Rouge Valley uses the OTN network, and the live webcast to support the regional cardiovascular rehabilitation service and its 10 sites across the LHIN. “We have this infrastructure right across the LHIN,” says Dr. Ricci. “This information exchange can also be of great use to our exercise therapists, who help our cardiovascular patients on their road to recovery.”

Soon, the reach of these cardiovascular rounds will extend even further.  Primary care physicians who join a newly developed regional education network will be able to watch the rounds live as part of a webcast from as desktop or laptop, and not be committed to attending at an OTN-capable site. Because of a registration process, those watching will also be eligible for CME credits. Those on the network will also be able to view any of the more than 100 archived presentations at their convenience, which Rouge Valley stores in a virtual library.

For more information on the rounds and how to register to participate online, email cardiacrounds@rougevalley.ca.