Bell Telemedicine Suites open at the Royal

Ottawa , Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Royal’s Telemedicine Consultations have Increased 80% in One Year

OTTAWA, January 29, 2013 –The Royal has expanded its Telemedicine Program to improve access to specialized mental health care for patients in outlying and rural communities across Eastern Ontario as well as northern parts of Ontario and Quebec, and the Yukon. Thanks to a $1 million donation from the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative, The Royal has increased its telemedicine consultations by 80% over the past year, delivering close to 900 clinical consultations in 2012 in addition to educational sessions.

“Where you live shouldn’t determine the quality of mental health care that you receive. With support from Bell, The Royal is using telemedicine to fundamentally change access to mental health care for people in underserved communities,” said Dr. Rajiv Bhatla, Chief of Psychiatry at The Royal. “The Royal has moved to a new level in telemedicine with more than 40 clinicians integrating the tool into their work and providing not only care directly to our patients but also psychiatric consultation and training opportunities for family doctors.”

1 in 5 Canadians will suffer from a mental illness. For people in urban centres, the specialized help they need to regain their mental health and maintain it is available locally. However, for people in rural and outlying communities, the nearest specialist can be hours away. Travelling this distance to receive care can add time, costs and stress to the already difficult situation of living with a mental illness. Through telemedicine, The Royal has been able to extend mental health care to underserved communities and provide education and training to family doctors across the Champlain LHIN.

“Bell is very pleased to see the success of the Royal’s Telemedicine program and the impact our $1 million contribution to the program is having,” said Mary Deacon, Chair of the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative. “Improving access to care across the country is one of pillars of the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative and we’re so proud to see this, our very first gift, taking shape in the Bell Telemedicine Suites at the Royal.”

How Telemedicine Works
Using a secure live video connection over the Ontario Telemedicine Network, patients in rural communities can see a mental health professional without the stress, cost, or time commitment of travel. The result is better access to care, with less disruption in patients’ lives.

Some patients may require ongoing care via telemedicine but many individuals with mental illness can be effectively treated by their family physician or general practitioner in consultation with The Royal’s mental health experts via telemedicine. After assessing the patient, experts from The Royal will assist with diagnosis, treatment plans, and medication options. Telemedicine combined with this model of shared care allows patients to receive the mental health care they need closer to home.

Examples of the Bell Telemedicine Studios at The Royal in Action

  • Barry’s Bay and Deep River are both underserved areas when it comes to mental health – there are not enough mental health specialists within these communities to meet the need for care. As a patient, this would mean a round trip of over 4 hours driving to Ottawa to see a specialist. Using telemedicine, The Royal now holds 3-hour clinics once monthly for patients in both Barry’s Bay and Deep River. Local family doctors can refer patients to these clinics where they will be assessed by a psychiatrist from The Royal who then provides the family doctors with the diagnostic and treatment information they need to improve the patient’s condition.
  • The Operational Stress Injury Clinic at The Royal is using telemedicine to treat Canadian Forces veterans in their local communities. Clients of the OSI Clinic may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, or other mental illnesses related to their service and some are living up to six or seven hours away from Ottawa (by car) in communities where no psychiatric services are available. Through telemedicine, the OSI Clinic is able to offer everything from initial assessment to individual clinical services such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, supportive counseling, and other evidence based practices to these veterans and their families. Due to distance, these services are not available in any other reasonable way; offering them by telemedicine saves time not only for the clients but also the clinicians, meaning they have more time to care for more people.

“Once, living hundreds of kilometers from the nearest city made it difficult, time-consuming, and costly for people with mental illnesses to consult with a mental health specialist and be treated,” said Dr. Bhatla. “Today, through the innovative use of telemedicine made possible by Bell’s support, The Royal has made huge strides forward in breaking down the geographic barriers that have so long been an impediment to getting well.”

For more information, please contact:
Sue Riley, Community Relations Manager at The Royal
613.722.6521 ext. 6349, sue.riley@theroyal.ca

The Royal is one of Canada’s foremost mental health care and academic health science centres. Our mandate is simple: to get more people living with mental illness into recovery faster. The Royal combines the delivery of specialized mental health care, advocacy, research and education to transform the lives of people with complex and treatment resistant mental illness. The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health raises funds that support The Royal’s work while placing a sharp focus on awareness building through the You Know Who I Am campaign.

Bell Let’s Talk Day is February 12
For every text message or long distance call made by Bell and Bell Aliant customers and every tweet using

BellLetsTalk and every Facebook share of our Bell Let’s Talk message on February 12, Bell will donate 5

cents more to mental health programs (regular long distance and text charges apply). In 2012, 78 million text messages, long distance calls and retweets by 8 million Canadians on Bell Let’s Talk Day resulted in $3,926,014.20 in additional funding for mental health.