Sask leads the world in telerobotic ultrasound
February 1, 2023
SASKATOON – In November, St. Joseph’s Hospital in the southern Saskatchewan community of Gravelbourg, received the MELODY Telerobotic Ultrasound System as part of a research initiative. Since then, more than 300 ultrasound scans have been performed using the system as part of the project, with about 80 percent of these scans obstetrical ultrasounds.
The aim of the project – which in addition to St. Joseph’s Hospital includes as partners the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the Virtual Care and Remote Presence Robotics Program at the University of Saskatchewan, and Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital – is to improve access and patient experience in rural and remote communities, and to ensure quality diagnostic care for pediatric and maternal patients through virtual ultrasound scanning.
“We are proud that Saskatchewan is leading the way in the use of advanced diagnostic ultrasound virtual care technologies in Canada and globally,” said Dr. Ivar Mendez (pictured), professor of surgery and director of the Virtual Care and Remote Presence Robotics Program.
According to project officials, the Virtual Care and Robotics Program research lab is the first and only initiative in the country to offer research-based use of the MELODY system and is the largest telerobotic ultrasound program in the world.
The MELODY telerobotic system allows sonographers based at a central location to use a probe and remotely perform an ultrasound to patients in distant locations, ensuring patients can receive the necessary, quality care without having to travel hundreds of kilometres.
“I’m pleased to see innovative and cutting-edge technology now being introduced in rural communities like Gravelbourg to benefit the healthcare received by mothers and babies locally,” rural and remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said.
In addition to the project in Gravelbourg, the telerobotic ultrasound research initiative has used the technology in northern Indigenous communities including Stony Rapids, La Loche and Pelican Narrows.
“As we have seen in northern communities this important research advances patient care, and also uses our health system resources effectively while integrating with local services,” Hindley said.
Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital CEO and president Brynn Boback-Lane said the research initiative “is making innovative strides for healthcare delivery” in the province.
Saskatchewan Health Authority COO Derek Miller said research “that supports access to remote ultrasounds will not only provide care closer to home, but support access to early prenatal care that maternal care providers will utilize to help families achieve the best outcomes for mother and baby.”