This pilot study in northeastern New Brunswick had three components: a distance education project used video conferencing to inform First Nations people with diabetes about the risks of chronic renal failure and appropriate lifestyle adjustments; a comparison of the effectiveness of distance versus on-site education of patients prior to dialysis; and supervised dialysis treatments delivered in satellite centres via video link and electronic transmission of data. The first two components of this project, using video conferencing for health education, were promising in receiving positive feedback from patients, but the results were inconclusive due to short time frames and small sample sizes. The third component marked the first time in Canada that telemedicine techniques had been applied to dialysis, and project organizers learned a great deal about planning and implementing complicated new technology and software. Although patients saved money by not having to travel and reported satisfaction with the distance consultation, costs were approximately 10 per cent higher per treatment for dialysis in satellite sites than they were at the hospital. Researchers said this difference might eventually disappear if more intensive use was made of satellite locations for other telemedicine applications.
This project was supported by the Health Transition Fund, which was created in 1997 to provide support for evidence-based decision-making in health care reform by supporting pilot and evaluation projects which test innovative approaches to health care delivery. The views expressed herein do no necessarily represent the official policy of federal, provincial, or territorial governments.