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Closeup of a doctor working with a laptop and tabletFeature
Meeting a need
Concussion program teams up with
MBtelehealth to provide care to
northern communities
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Jan/Feb 2018

A pilot project launched late last year is allowing young concussion patients in northern Manitoba to receive virtually the same treatment as they would if they travelled to Winnipeg.

The key word is virtually.

Thanks to a video-conferencing connection provided by MBTelehealth, staff members at the Pan Am Concussion Program in Winnipeg are now able to "meet with" health-care providers and patients in Thompson.

It's the first time in Canada that such a program has been able to provide concussion care to pediatric patients in underserved northern communities, says Dr. Michael Ellis, Director of the Pan Am Clinic Concussion Program.

"Over the first three years of our program, we have demonstrated we are able to deliver a high standard of multidisciplinary care to most children living in Manitoba," says Ellis. "But we also recognize that there is a need to deliver quality concussion care to those living in remote and northern communities who have difficulty travelling to Winnipeg."

Prior to launching the service, Ellis led a delegation to Thompson to meet with health-care providers and discuss follow-up concussion care for youth and children.

The delegation included Winnipeg Jets Assistant General Manager Craig Heisinger, Dr. Kelly Russell, scientist at the Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, and Rickie Walkden, a physiotherapist with Sport Manitoba. They met with emergency department staff and nurse practitioners to establish the program for pediatric concussion patients. They also held information sessions for students at R.D. Parker Collegiate and the general public in Thompson to help raise awareness on concussion and mental health issues in youth.

"The goal of this project is to create a process where children undergo initial evaluation by one of those health-care professionals in their community and then are referred to our program where we facilitate post-injury care," says Ellis.

In the first five weeks of the pilot project, 10 concussion patients from northern communities around Thompson were managed through this novel program.

"We're learning as we go," says Ellis. Most of the children seen so far were able to be treated via telehealth and did not have to make the trip to Winnipeg, saving the province hundreds of dollars in travel and accommodation costs.

"It's a way to provide safe and cost-effective concussion care to these patients within their community," says Ellis.

Established in 2001, MBTelehealth allows patients to receive care in remote locations throughout the province via high-speed video-conferencing. From the start, the program has been acknowledged as a leader in its field, winning a number of awards.

Gwendolyne Nyhof, Manager of MBTelehealth Programs, says that while the pilot project involves Thompson, the program could expand to any one of MBTelehealth's 184 sites across the province, approximately 25 per cent of which are in First Nations communities.

The concussion program is the latest to take advantage of MBTelehealth's videoconferencing capabilities. Last year, MBTelehealth had 27,500 consultations on all health matters.

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