This document was published under a previous government.

Excellent Care for All

Telemedicine - Improving access to care through technology

Health Care Challenge

The sparsely populated north presents a particular challenge to the Ontario health care system. With more than 87 per cent of the province’s land area and just 6 per cent of the population, northern and rural hospitals struggle to recruit frontline health care workers. As a result, smaller hospitals strain to provide the same level of care offered in larger, urban centres. Patients often end up travelling great distances to be seen by a specialist.

Real Change In Action

To meet the needs of patients living in northern and rural communities, the government invested in the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN). Now one of the largest telemedicine networks in the world, it uses two-way videoconferencing at hundreds of health care locations across the province to provide Ontarians with greater access to high quality health care.

Ontario continues to invest in telemedicine to further expand and improve the network of doctors and hospitals available to treat patients remotely. The program has expanded beyond rural and northern communities to include patients in long-term care facilities and patients throughout Ontario who would have to travel to another city for care.

“Telemedicine has enabled increased access to health care for thousands of people across the province,” said Ontario Telemedicine Network CEO Dr. Ed Brown. “Ontario is leading the way in telemedicine across Canada and around the globe. We are constantly innovating to solve health care challenges with technological solutions.”

Northern Ontario accounts for 49% of total telemedicine activity and has realized significant benefits from the development of provincial telemedicine delivery infrastructure, including:  improved access to health services by rural, remote, aboriginal, under-serviced, and official language minority communities; decreased travel time and costs for clinicians and patients, and facilitation of remote education and skills transfer for health care professionals. OTN facilitates the delivery of numerous health service programs in northern Ontario, including the Northern Ontario Francophone Psychiatry Program, and Telemedicine Critical Care pilots in Kenora and Thunder Bay that enables patients in critical condition to access life-saving care that scarce in the north.

Better Quality Care

Initiatives like telemedicine refocus the health care system around the needs of the patient. This technology eliminates costly and time-consuming long distance travel for the patient and visits to the emergency department.

In 2010/2011 OTN enabled over 111,000 telemedicine events, including over 134,000 patients served across over 1,000 sites in Ontario.

Telemedicine also significantly reduces the costs, travel and carbon footprint associated with accessing health services in Ontario’s north. An estimated $25M annually in northern travel costs has been avoided. Since 2002, over 67M kilograms of pollutant load has been eliminated and over 27M litres of fuel has been saved. Since 2002, over 245M kilometres of travel have been avoided.

“I believe that telemedicine is an essential service for the people of Northern Ontario,” said Laura Kokocinski, CEO of the North West LHIN. “This technology ensures that residents can continue to receive care as quickly, efficiently, and as close to home as possible.”

For more information on this innovative program, please contact the Ontario Telemedicine Network:

For More Information

Call ServiceOntario, Infoline at 1-866-532-3161
In Toronto, 416-314-5518
TTY 1-800-387-5559
In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282
Hours of operation : 8:30am - 5:00pm