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New Telepathology Network Aims to Improve Access to Healthcare for Remote Communities

As Canada’s most easterly province, Newfoundland and Labrador faces a unique set of challenges in providing care for its geographically dispersed population.

With Labrador’s coastal communities and Newfoundland’s rural island towns, the province’s nearly half a million people are spread over a large area—caring for those patients has proved to be challenging in the past. Healthcare services in the province are distributed by four regional health authorities that have minimal connection for information-sharing between them. With limited resources, complex cases often are referred to the provincial capital St. John’s, which has more specialists and equipment.

Omnyx slide 2 (3)

Telepathology can help clinicians examine samples remotely, which is an advantage to healthcare facilities in isolated areas.

Pathology in particular has represented a significant challenge when it comes to remote care. Traditionally, pathologists interpret tissue mounted on glass slides, with that diagnosis forming the basis of a treatment plan. This manual process generally requires pathologists to be physically present with the slides they read, an impracticality in remote areas that can create a gap in the quality and speed of care. Remote facilities in Newfoundland and Labrador also face difficulty recruiting specialists and moving them in and out of these isolated communities.

To address these challenges, the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information (NLCHI) — through the support of the Provincial Government and Canada Health Infoway—is increasing its focus on telehealth programs and implementing electronic solutions to connect patients to health information and services. As part of that effort, NLCHI and GE Healthcare recently partnered to install a provincial telepathology network – using the OmnyxTM Digital Pathology Solution – that will help improve healthcare delivery for all patients in the province, particularly those in rural and remote areas.

“This solution will give our providers access to sub-specialty pathologists either regionally or provincially,” said Mike Barron, NLCHI President and CEO. “It will create a sustainable local telepathology network, promote timely consultation and collaboration among provincial pathologists, increase educational opportunities and facilitate quality assurance. More importantly, enhancing digital pathology access through this initiative will support healthcare professionals in delivering optimal care to the people of our province.”

Telepathology uses telecommunication technology to facilitate the review of image-rich pathology data between locations, and this partnership with NLCHI is just one example of its transformative potential. The role of digital pathology in oncology may also become a key advancement in the way oncologists treat patients, as every oncologist relies on pathologists for diagnoses.

“Seeing more and more people have improved access to healthcare through technology is inspiring,” said Mamar Gelaye, CEO for Omnyx. “We admire the work that organizations like NLCHI are doing, and we are excited to see them embrace the power of digital pathology to help advance patient care.”