Connecting patients with specialists in rural and remote communities

Pictured from Left to Right: Shelley Bouchard, RN; Geoffrey C. Nguyen, MD, PhD, FRCPC, AGAF; Peter Habashi, RN
In 2016, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada launched the Promoting Access and Care through Centres of Excellence (PACE) program. This exciting new network was the first pan-Canadian network of its kind, with five centres of excellence tackling four gaps in IBD patient care. PACE aims to elevate and standardize the quality of care for all Canadians living with Crohn’s or colitis.
The Telemedicine Program is one of the PACE projects making strides in improving IBD patient outcomes. Spearheaded at Mount Sinai Hospital by Dr. Geoffrey Nguyen with the support of Shelley Bouchard, PACE’s IBD Telemedicine Coordinator, the program provides health care to underserved IBD patients living in rural and remote communities.
Since the program’s launch, the telemedicine team has connected patients with specialists in over 70 host sites across Ontario. Whether it is providing a student away from home with access to their medication, or helping a senior with limited mobility in a rural community, the program ensures patients receive care that they might not otherwise be able to access. Through Ontario Telemedicine Network centres, these patients meet with specialty care teams including gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons, nurses, and dietitians. In some cases, patients have been able to receive specialty care within a week, which is considerably less than the two-to-three month wait period many patients face.
The success of the Telemedicine Program over the past two years has been remarkable. And it is growing. The program has recently begun facilitating easy, at-home video conferencing. Led by Dr. Vivian Huang, and designed particularly for high-risk pregnancies, it is a novel and welcome approach to providing specialty services. The adoption of a digital self-monitoring app in IBD care within the Telemedicine Program is also an exciting new development. The app allows patients to regularly track their symptoms and communicate them back to their IBD team.
No matter where a patient lives, it is essential that they can access their healthcare team. Early disease detection and timely care can improve overall quality of life, and reduce the need for invasive and expensive surgeries. Given the tremendous success of the Telemedicine Program, Dr. Nguyen and Ms. Bouchard are now working with other PACE Centres of Excellence to make similar programs available to IBD patients across the country.
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Pictured from Left to Right: Shelley Bouchard, RN; Geoffrey C. Nguyen, MD, PhD, FRCPC, AGAF; Peter Habashi, RN

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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