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The meaning of change

Ten years ago, if your family lived abroad, the only ways to stay in touch were by phone, email or snail mail. Today we can also take advantage of Skype or FaceTime to maintain or rekindle a closeness that would have been inconceivable a decade earlier.

These same kinds of advances are being made in health care. On a recent trip to Yale New Haven Health in Connecticut, I was privy to some major technological advances, including the InSight Tele-ICU. In what looked like a command centre, physicians, nurses and other healthcare staff sat at computer workstations and remotely monitored patients in all of the Intensive Care Units in the health network. From 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., with the use of cameras and live video, they we able to take a look at patients’ vital signs, test results and updates of their condition. If a problem arose, they alerted staff on the floor, while assisting them from afar.

This is an amazing advance for medical care and the future of telehealth. No longer do we need to constantly be by our patient’s side; instead, we can provide much-needed assistance from a distance, and as a consequence, on a much broader scale.

In our own network, imagine what we might do, for instance, with home care. We know that our users’ needs in this area will continue to grow. If we start to rethink the way we organize home care, as well as our use of current technology to enhance the delivery of care and social services, we can create an opportunity to expand our reach in ways that were previously unavailable to us. For instance, rather than having to visit a client’s home for every session of physiotherapy, video technology could allow us to do so remotely. This would cut down on travel time, while allowing more clients to be seen in a single day. This is just one example, but the possibilities are endless.

I am certainly not advocating the use of machines as a substitute for the compassion, insight and intuitive edge that only people can provide. But there is no reason why staying open to new generations of medical technology can’t help us make the most of our skills as healthcare practitioners.

Perhaps we need to reevaluate how we see change. Instead, we would do well to realize that the only thing more frightening than change is no change at all.

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