Dr. Mendez examines a virtual patient using Google Glass.

Remote presence technology improves access to ultrasound in northern Sask.

Medical researchers, faculty and graduates from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine are among the pioneers of a new remote technology ultrasound system that may one day make it possible for people in Saskatchewan’s remote and isolated communities to have the same access to the diagnostic tool as people in larger centres.

“With the ability of technology and the speed of the Internet, we’re really able to scan as if we are really there,” said Nadine Kanigan (BA’02), a sonographer and owner of The Ultrasound Centre, in a recent interview with The StarPhoenix. The U of S graduate is now able treat patients from as far away as Stony Rapids, located over 1,000 km away from Saskatoon.

“Programs and companies around the world contact us on a routine basis because they want us to see if their systems can be used for health care delivery in remote locations,” said Dr. Ivar Mendez.

Mendez, unified head of the department of surgery at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine, said such opportunities are not uncommon given the international reputation the U of S has developed around remote presence technology.

Mendez and his team spent a year testing the remote technology system in Saskatoon and comparing how reliable remote ultrasounds are compared to conventional ones. They found remote ultrasounds to be just as effective and, in early 2018, remote presence ultrasound systems were installed at health centres in Stony Rapids and La Loche — something made possible by a $300,000 investment from the Royal University Hospital Foundation through a donation from philanthropists Leslie and Irene Dubé.

“One of the things we’re very interested in is narrowing the gap of inequity or inequality on health-care delivery,” said Mendez. “We hope that this will serve the most needed populations and the most vulnerable populations.”

Read more about remote presence technology in The StarPhoenix.

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