PTSD is a growing, critical issue, video technology can help

Riverside-Albert, NB – (March 12, 2014) Keith Steeves of Albert Mines didn’t realize the insomnia, nightmares and anxiety attacks that plagued him following his return from active duty in war-torn Bosnia in 1993 actually had a name. Or a treatment. And he certainly wasn’t aware he would find help within his own community.

Two years ago, Steeves was finally diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, a stress-related condition common to military personnel and others who have been exposed to emotional events, such as traumatic accidents, violence or threat of death. That was when he began to slowly reclaim his life.

Part of his treatment plan required expensive monthly trips to the Operational Stress Injury clinic in Fredericton, which specializes in helping individuals cope with work-related psychological stress and trauma.

The costs and time involved would be a strain, however, Keith discovered that video conferencing facilities located at the Albert County Health and Wellness Centre in Riverside-Albert would allow him to meet with his doctor without the expense of travel.

The equipment at the Albert County Health and Wellness Centre in Riverside-Albert was purchased through community donations supplied by the Bennett and Albert County Healthcare Foundation.  “When we hear stories such as Keith’s,” says foundation chairman, Warren Williams, “it drives home the real human value of our fundraising efforts. This is truly community helping community members become stronger.”

“This technology allows patients to access specialists or physicians from other cities, provinces or outside the country, without leaving their own community,” says Angela Lawson, Video Conference Operations Coordinator. “It can reduce wait times and mean significant savings for patients in terms of time and travel costs.”

Lawson sets up the appointment between the physician and the patient. The patient goes to the Albert Health and Wellness Centre (or other participating facility) for the appointment and is shown to a private room. Audio/visual equipment allows the physician and patient to connect through a secure network, as if they were face to face in the same room. 

“The quality is excellent, much better than Skype,” says Steeves. “It saved me 18 or 20 trips to Fredericton. I recommend this to anyone who doesn’t need a physical exam.”

In some cases, an additional exam camera and services of a nurse on site allow the physician to conduct examinations, assess vitals, or acquire specimens for further testing.

Lawson says the system is most commonly used for initial consultations or follow-up appointments after surgery and would be of particular value to parents of children receiving treatment at the Halifax IWK Hospital or the Toronto Sick Children’s Hospital.

“Some of our users are patients of the IWK Genetics lab, who wish to do genetic testing for breast cancer, or plastic surgery patients who must be seen every three months or so,” she notes.  “We do rehabilitation sessions with the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation in Fredericton, appointments with organ transplant specialists in Ontario, or general surgery follow-ups.”

The service also benefits employees at the Albert County Health and Wellness Centre and other site facilities who use it for educational events and meetings, saving the travel to Moncton or further afield. Physicians at The Moncton Hospital use it to consult with colleagues, and for education sessions.

Unfortunately, many doctors don’t know it exists, so it is often up to the patient to ask.  Lawson hopes that eventually more will take advantage of the service, but for now, she encourages patients to ask their physicians if video conferencing is an option for them.  “Right now, people might travel to Moncton on a regular basis for a 10 or 15 minute appointment with a specialist.”

Steeves feels fortunate to have such a valuable service in his rural community and wishes more people knew about it.  “If it became more commonplace – especially to access specialists from outside our region – it could save people and the healthcare system so much money.”

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