USask remote ultrasound machine opens up health-care opportunities in rural Saskatchewan

Click to play video: 'Health care specialists in Saskatchewan use robots in new research program'
Health care specialists in Saskatchewan use robots in new research program
Health care specialists in Saskatchewan use robots in new research program – Jan 26, 2023

An announcement and demonstration was given at the Jim Pattison Hospital in Saskatoon on Thursday that could lead to health care being more readily available in remote communities.

An ultrasound machine that could be used remotely was unveiled by the University of Saskatchewan virtual care and robotics program research lab, and Dr. Ivar Mendez from USask says this research-based use of the Melody telerobotic ultrasound system will help determine the feasibility of having a permanent telerobotic program across rural and remote communities.

Mendez said rural and remote parts of Saskatchewan often find it challenging to get health-care services.

“These challenges are really more acute in vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, and children. That’s the case in Gravelbourg, if you live in Gravelbourg now and you are a pregnant woman that needs a prenatal ultrasound, you need to drive to Moose Jaw, which is the nearest centre for ultrasonography,” Mendez said.

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Dr. Nadine Kanigan gave a demonstration of how a remote ultrasound system can help patients she can’t see in person. Global News/ Devon Latchuk

That drive takes about one hour and 12 minutes, according to Google Maps, and is a 116.5-kilometre distance.

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Mendez said they sent this telerobotic system to Gravelbourg, and they now have easier access to these ultrasonography systems.

Mendez said this technology can be crucial, since the information from a prenatal ultrasound determines the state of the pregnancy, expected time of delivery and health of the fetus.

Dr. Nadine Kanigan gave a demonstration of the remote ultrasound system, noting a sonographer still has to be involved in the process, but the assistant on the remote end doesn’t need to be trained.

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“Anyone can help assist me if I can’t physically be there by holding the frame,” Kanigan said.

She gave directions to the assistant over something similar to a Zoom call and adjusted a machine over the patient’s belly that allowed her to remotely control the ultrasound camera and get the images that she needs.

The movement of Kanigan’s device was mimicked by the machine.

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