An evalutation of the British Columbia rural health video network link.
The British Columbia Rural Health Video Network Link initiative strove to provide quality educational experiences, clinical consultations, and clinical service support to the population of nine physicians in Vanderhoof during the period from November 1, 2001, to November 30, 2002. The purpose of this study was to perform an evaluation of the project with a particular focus on the continuing medical education component (CME). A needs assessment, two focus groups, six CME rounds delivered via videoconference, and a final site visit, were the foci for evaluating project effectiveness. Participants reacted positively to all six sessions, reporting a moderate to high level of agreement that the videoconference medium provided the best way of delivering CME material. The findings suggest that the needs-based CME rounds were effective in fulfilling the educational requests of physicians, positively influencing their clinical practices, and improving patient care. However, the only way this group of physicians will welcome the technology again is in the form of a sustainable initiative with guaranteed funding and 24-hour, highly reliable access. Therefore, future telehealth delivery into other rural communities should follow the Telehealth Uptake Strategy, first described in this paper, with a funding guarantee for three to five years, which includes the provision of a project coordinator and identification and cooperation of a local "change agent" with administrative support. The Shared Provincial Access Network/Provincial Learning Network is underutilized and offers an opportunity to bridge the CME access gap between rural and urban physicians. The network was very reliable between the hours of 0730-0900 and 1500-2000, exceeding 95% problem-free connectivity. The evaluation produced 23 recommendations.