Therapeutic Radiation Oncology in the Age of the Internet - Opening Our Eyes to eMedicine

Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN
Last Modified: October 9, 2002

Presented by: Alejandro Jadad, MD, DPhil, FRCPC

Alejandro (Alex) Jadad, MD, DPhil, FRCPC, director of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation in Toronto, Canada, has a vision that most of us will find hard to imagine. He envisions a physician in Australia reviewing the case of a patient with a rare tumor, with an expert in the field, in California. But the review is taking place online, in a chat room, where CT scan images are exchanged, records are accessed with the touch of a button, and additional expert opinions are available from other parts of the world - live. Sounds interesting? The reality is, it is not a thing of the future, it is happening right now, and it is known as telemed.

In an age where our children know more about technology than we do, how can we prepare our world for them? Would they be disappointed to see how archaically our health systems are run? We use the high technology of MRI and PET to achieve images of tumors, but record our findings with pencil and paper. Dr. Jadad hopes to move us into the future of healthcare - eHealth. His research examines innovative ways to help people, regardless of who they are or where they live, use state-of-the-art information and communication technologies, with enthusiasm, proficiency and confidence, to achieve the highest possible levels of health and to help the health system make the most efficient use of available resources.

So why isn't this technology being used more frequently? Dr. Jadad proposes a few reasons. There is a lack of interest from people who fear technology, a lack of training in this area, poor infrastructures in our health care systems, concerns about the security of the information and the quality of the images transmitted, poorly developed mechanisms for reimbursement, and of course, a fear of the unknown. So why is it that our children can adapt so well to new technologies, but we fear them? This issue may be harder to overcome. We inherently question technology and how it will affect the security of health records and the freedom that we treasure - will big brother be watching? But, in reality, these advances will provide us with freedom. The freedom to find evidence based information with the touch of a button. The freedom for patients and families to find the best possible care for themselves and the freedom for our health systems to make the most of what technology has to offer.

The Centre for Global eHealth Innovation was created in October 2000 as a joint initiative of the University Health Network, the largest hospital grouping in Canada, and the University of Toronto. The Centre defines eHealth Innovation as the conceptualization, design, development, application and evaluation of new ways of using existing or emerging information communication technologies in the health sector. The Centre has been designed to provide experts in information and communication technologies, the social sciences, and health knowledge management, with access to resources that do not exist anywhere else in the world, for the study of eHealth innovations. The mission of the centre is to ensure that people, regardless of who or where they are, are able to access the information and services they need to maintain the highest levels of health, and to make informed choices regarding their own health care.

Dr. Jadad suggests that we think beyond what we are doing now. Conceive opportunities outside our traditional borders and be open to new technologies. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from our children and open our eyes to all that eHealth has to offer.

Oncolink's ASTRO Coverage made possible by an unrestricted Educational Grant from Ortho Biotech.