May 30, 2024

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Quebec introduces program to improve health technology in the regions

6 min read

It will survey health establishments and regional health authorities in targeted locations to assess their specific needs.

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A new program aimed at improving access to care in remote regions was presented Friday morning by, among others, Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon and the CEO of health-care technology firm CTS, Jean-Pierre Robert.

As part of the First Line in Health conference, they praised the potential of the Harfang program, which will ultimately implement Quebec technologies adapted to the regions to promote access and equity in health care.

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“Health innovation is clearly one of the priorities for our government,” Fitzgibbon said in a speech at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal. Our network faces significant challenges, Quebec society is faced with an aging population, it is also faced with a significant increase in network operating expenses.”

Fitzgibbon said he and Health Minister Christian Dubé believe the contribution of the private sector to health is an opportunity. “I think we must increasingly focus on collaborations with the private sector, research organizations and businesses,” he said.

That vision is not shared by everyone. On Thursday, when Dubé was to make a speech at the event, he was interrupted by demonstrators chanting “No private health!”

Fitzgibbon’s speech on Friday went off without a hitch.

In Quebec, nearly one in five people live in a remote region and do not have the same access to health care as residents of large centres. They face additional costs, access to services is more difficult, they lack specialized resources and there are gaps in health awareness.

These inequities have consequences on the health of Quebecers living in remote regions, including their life expectancy.

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The Harfang program will survey health establishments and regional health authorities in targeted locations to assess their specific needs. It will then launch pilot projects that put forward technological solutions.

“Normally, companies, when they start marketing … they set up in large centres, and then they go elsewhere. What happens is that remote areas are often neglected. People are not necessarily aware that these technologies are there or they have fewer resources to evaluate these technologies and how it could help them,” Robert said in an interview.

To identify suitable Quebec technologies, CTS will work in collaboration with the ministry’s office of innovation in health and social services. A first pilot project should begin within six months, in a remote region that has not yet been determined. Two other projects are planned for next year.

The objective is for health-care professionals and patients to benefit from technologies that prevent one or the other from having to travel. “It’s all about remote care,” Robert said.

He emphasized Quebec has the resources and expertise necessary to get there. “We have what we need in terms of technology, either digital health or medical technology for remote diagnosis, which are available here, from Quebec companies,” he said.

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Desjardins Group contributed $350,000 to the Harfang program. The Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Energy and the city of Montreal contribute to the project at the functional level of operations.

Enhanced role for CLSCs

Another health initiative was announced on Friday, this time by Minister for Seniors Sonia Bélanger.

The role of CLSCs will be enhanced so they become the main access point to care and services for elderly people. This will allow seniors to find all the programs for seniors and caregivers in one place. Health personnel will also be able to better identify people losing their autonomy in order to act in prevention.

“Over the years, the role of CLSCs has not been sufficiently valued,” Bélanger said, and these establishments were ideally suited to respond to a recommendation from Quebec’s commissioner of health and welfare, who wanted to establish regional offices for seniors to facilitate access to home support.

This enhancement of the role of CLSCs will be implemented this year and will be completed by the fall of 2025, the ministry announced.

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