New wound care teleassistance service launched

A new service is being launched today: wound care teleassistance, also known as téléassistance en soins de plaies (TASP). With this service a nurse can use a camera to film her patient's wound, while at the same time an expert nurse in another institution can receive the images. They can then hold an online discussion to evaluate the patient's wound and plan treatment. TASP increases access to care, allows treatment of patients in their own communities, reduces visits to emergency centres and can prevent chronic wound complications. Because it is based both on a clinical network of specially trained nurses and standardized methods, TASP is unique in Canada.

TASP is a project of the Réseau universitaire intégré de santé de Sherbrooke (RUIS), a network that covers an area that includes Estrie, part of Montérégie and Centre-du-Québec. Expert nurses from the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke (CHUS) were the first to provide real-time support via remote access to their colleagues from the Estrie health and social services centres (CSSS). Ten expert nurses distributed among the different RUIS institutions will soon be able to coach other nurses located in more than 70 points of service.

"Our institution was the first in Estrie to offer a virtual wound care clinic linked to the CHUS professional team. Our patients were pleasantly surprised and satisfied with the live service they received. They are happy they can stay in their community and have easy access to specialized services. In fact, this new technology will be implemented this spring in our Lambton point of service and a little later, during the year, at the St. Ludger point of service," Pierre Latulippe, executive director of CSSS du Granit, said.

An expanded role for nurses

The expert nurses and about 80 other nurses from RUIS's CSSS will be specially trained in the virtual clinic technology and will all adopt the same wound care methods. Two CHUS nurses developed the chronic wound care frame of reference, Aidez-moi, s'il-vous-"plaie"!, a training tool that will be used throughout the RUIS. Standardization of care involves 35 hours of training and continuing education through the virtual network.

"Wound care teleassistance expands the role of nurses, because the service depends on their expertise. They themselves will be able to establish a treatment plan, provide care, perform specialized techniques and monitor patients suffering from pressure ulcers, lower limb ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers and other complex chronic wounds. These activities increase their autonomy and their leeway to make decisions. This is a new way of sharing fields of professional practice," Céline Gervais, director of nursing and the CHUS, pointed out.

Wound care teleassistance was made possible thanks to a partnership with the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec (MSSS) and Canada Health Infoway, which invested nearly $4 million in the project. The service is supported by a massive IT structure that uses wireless technology. The sound and images are sent securely and confidentially via the MSSS's private telecommunications network, known as the Réseau de télécommunications sociosanitaire (RTSS). This totally secure network guarantees data integrity and confidentiality.

"Wound care is often complex and there are few specialized nurses in this field. The wound care teleassistance project will ensure access to state-of-the-art treatment for the population within the territory of the RUIS de l'Université de Sherbrooke. It will also permit home care for patients who otherwise would have had to stay in the hospital for days, even weeks," said Dr. Michel A. Bureau, executive director with the Direction générale des services de santé et de médecine universitaire of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.

"Technological innovations, such as teleassistance, are bringing specialized care to patients and communities in need," said Louise Beauchesne, executive regional director, Quebec, Canada Health Infoway. "The wound care teleassistance program in Quebec is another example of how investments in electronic health record systems is improving access to care when patients need it most."

"Telehealth is the way of the future, because it facilitates access to services, supports regional autonomy and reduces professional isolation. RUIS de l'Université de Sherbrooke is therefore extremely proud of the implementation of wound care teleassistance. All the partners spared no effort and we take our hats off to them. No doubt in the near future, other telehealth services will be rolled out in our territory, in the primary interest of the patient," concluded Patricia Gauthier, executive director of the CHUS and president of RUIS de l'Université de Sherbrooke.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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