Virtual critical care model wins provincial health award

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A new approach to providing critical care in Canada, pioneered in Northeastern Ontario has won a provincial award for health care innovation.

The Virtual Critical Care (VCC) Unit is this year’s recipient of the Minister’s Medal Honouring Excellence in Health Quality and Safety, presented by Health Quality Ontario.

Launched in May of 2014, VCC is the first critical care model of its kind in Canada.

Based at Health Sciences North/Horizon Santé-Nord (HSN) in Greater Sudbury, Virtual Critical Care received start-up funding through the North East Local Health Integration Network (NE LHIN) and uses a special software program created by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN).

Virtual Critical Care uses the latest in videoconferencing technology and electronic medical records sharing to connect HSN with smaller Critical Care units and Emergency Departments at 22 other hospitals across Northeastern Ontario.

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Under the VCC model, a team of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) physicians, specially trained nurses and ICU respiratory therapists based at HSN are available for around-the-clock consultations for critically ill patients at participating hospitals. Other allied health professionals such as dietitians and pharmacists are also available for consultation during scheduled hours.

The goal of VCC is to enhance the diagnosis and treatment of critically ill patients across Northeastern Ontario, and potentially avoid the transfer of patients out of their local hospitals, away from their families and support systems.

Since being launched in May of 2014, VCC has been used for 227 patients, with an additional 355 follow-up visits, for a total of more 19362 VCC care minutes. Thanks to VCC, 80 patients avoided a medical transfer by air ambulance, at an approximate saving of $1,360,000 to the health care system.

“The Virtual Critical Care Unit has been a major advance in the care of critically ill patients in our region and represents the future of acute care medicine. The ability to instantly bring the HSN Critical Care team to the bedside of patients across the region has been remarkable,” says Dr. Derek Manchuk, Medical Lead for the VCC and Critical Care Lead for the NE LHIN. “Our partner hospitals, the NE LHIN, Ontario Telemedicine Network, Criticall, and the Ministry of Health have all come together with us to make this new program a reality. I’m very proud of this ‘made in Northern Ontario’ program that was the first of its kind in Canada.”

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“Patients are entitled to receive care based on the best scientific evidence and should receive the same quality of care regardless of geographic location.Telemedicine can remove the barrier of distance and ensure critically ill patients receive the right care, at the right time, in the right place, by the right provider. It is very humbling to work with such a large group of special people so fully invested in the success of the NELHIN Virtual Critical Care program. Kudos for a job very well done,” adds Renee Fillier, Virtual Critical Care Nurse Clinician at HSN.

Hospitals in Northeastern Ontario that are part of the Virtual Critical Care Unit:

Blind River (Blind River District Health Centre)

Chapleau (Services de Santé de Chapleau Health Services-Chapleau General Hospital)

Cochrane (MICS Group of Health Services – Lady Minto Hospital)

Elliot Lake (St. Joseph’s General Hospital)

Englehart (Englehart and District Hospital Inc.)

Espanola (Espanola Regional Hospital and Health Centre)

Hearst (Hôpital Notre-Dame Hospital)

Hornepayne (Hornepayne Community Hospital)

Iroquois Falls (MICS Group of Health Services – Anson General Hospital)

Kapuskasing (Sensenbrenner Hospital)

Kirkland Lake (Kirkland and District Hospital)

Little Current (Manitoulin Health Centre)

Matheson (MICS Group of Health Services – Bingham Memorial Hospital)

Mattawa (Hôpital de Mattawa General Hospital)

Mindemoya (Manitoulin Health Centre)

New Liskeard (Temiskaming Hospital)

North Bay (North Bay Regional Health Centre)

Parry Sound (West Parry Sound Health Centre)

Smooth Rock Falls (Hôpital de Smooth Rock Falls Hospital)

Sturgeon Falls (West Nipissing General Hospital)

Sudbury (Health Sciences North)

Timmins (Timmins and District Hospital)

Wawa (Lady Dunn Health Centre)

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