Begin main content
CADTH Document Viewer

Health Technology Update — Issue 21

August 2018


In This Issue

Issue 21 — August 2018 — Rural and Remote Issue

This issue of Health Technology Update features brief summaries of information on a range of technologies with relevance to rural and remote health care settings — from medical drones to a teleoperated robotic ultrasound system. These technologies were identified through the CADTH Horizon Scanning Service as topics of potential interest to health care decision-makers in Canada.

  • Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems for the Telescreening of Diabetic Retinopathy
  • MELODY: A Teleoperated Robotic Ultrasound System
  • Video Directly Observed Therapy of Tuberculosis Treatment
  • A Rapid Point-of-Care Test to Differentiate Bacterial From Viral Acute Upper Respiratory Infections
  • Focus On: Drone Applications in Health Care
  • Mini-Roundup: Recent Horizon Scanning Reports from CADTH and Other Agencies


Feedback

Have you heard of a new health technology you think will have an impact on health care in Canada? Please let us know!

Email: HorizonScanning@cadth.ca.

 


New Technologies That Support the Delivery of Health Care in Rural and Remote Areas

Residents of rural and remote areas in Canada commonly have to contend with challenges when seeking access to health care. Geographic distance, limited availability of health care professionals, and logistical, economic, and sociocultural factors that can make medically related travel difficult are among the barriers to accessing health care in rural and remote areas.1,2 Leveraging technology to improve access to health care in rural and remote communities has been a longstanding and continuing pursuit in various jurisdictions across Canada.3-7 In this issue of Health Technology Update, we describe five emerging technologies that may be of interest to those looking to address health care access issues in rural and remote areas.


Improving Access to Health Care Using Technology

In 2011, more than 6.3 million people, or 19% of the Canadian population, were living in rural and remote areas.8 Evidence indicates that people living in rural and remote communities in Canada tend to have poorer health status than those who live in urban areas.9 In these settings, access to physicians and other health care providers remains an issue. For example, it has been reported that less than 8% of Canadian physicians work in rural areas.10 Beyond this, residents of those communities can face considerable travel time and out-of-pocket costs to get to the places where they can obtain the medical services they need.1

The technologies discussed in this issue may help enable better access to certain health care services in rural and remote areas of Canada. One of the technologies, the Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems – IRIS — is a platform that may be used to facilitate the provision of diabetic retinopathy screening in areas that have limited access to eye care professionals. Another technology, unmanned aerial vehicles — or drones — may help to overcome challenges that affect conventional modes of transportation and enable the timely delivery of medical supplies to remote communities. For health care providers in rural and remote areas who are caring for patients with acute upper respiratory tract infections, a rapid, point-of-care test, FebriDx, may help to differentiate bacterial and viral infections and could enable the more judicious use of antibiotics. Video directly observed therapy (VDOT) enables patients to record themselves taking their medications at work or at home and send the video to their health care providers regardless of the time or distances involved. We discuss VDOT in the context of monitoring adherence to tuberculosis treatment in remote Canadian communities. Finally, a robotic arm that allows a clinician located at a distance to control an ultrasound system in a patient’s home community may help improve access to ultrasound imaging for people living in communities without trained practitioners. It may also help improve access to specialized ultrasound imaging in smaller communities with low-volume clinics.


Who Might Benefit?

As noted, 19% of the Canadian population live in rural and remote areas and could benefit from technologies that facilitate access to health care services. Specifically, these technologies may help reduce the need for patients to travel far away from their communities to get medical care. In 2010, it is estimated that the provision of health care services through the telehealth approach helped residents of rural and remote communities in Canada to avoid 47 million km of travel and $70 million in associated personal costs.3 Cost savings for the health care system and a more effective delivery of health care to the affected communities are often noted as potential advantages of initiatives that bring health care services closer to rural and remote populations.4,6,11,12

Author: Bert Dolcine


References

  1. Brundisini F, Giacomini M, DeJean D, Vanstone M, Winsor S, Smith A. Chronic disease patients' experiences with accessing health care in rural and remote areas: a systematic review and qualitative meta-synthesis. Ont Health Technol Assess Ser. 2013;13(15):1-33.
  2. Bosco C, Oandasan I. Review of family medicine within rural and remote Canada: education, practice, and policy. Mississauga (ON): College of Family Physicians of Canada; 2016: http://www.cfpc.ca/uploadedFiles/Publications/News_Releases/News_Items/ARFM_BackgroundPaper_Eng_WEB_FINAL.pdf. Accessed 2018 Apr 27.
  3. Praxia Information Intelligence, Gartner. Telehealth benefits and adoption - connecting people and providers across Canada. Toronto (ON): Canada Health Infoway; 2011: https://www.infoway-inforoute.ca/en/component/edocman/resources/reports/334-telehealth-benefits-and-adoption-connecting-people-and-providers-summary. Accessed 2018 Apr 27.
  4. Liddy C, McKellips F, Armstrong CD, Afkham A, Fraser-Roberts L, Keely E. Improving access to specialists in remote communities: a cross-sectional study and cost analysis of the use of eConsult in Nunavut. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2017;76(1):1323493.
  5. O'Gorman LD, Hogenbirk JC, Warry W. Clinical telemedicine utilization in Ontario over the Ontario Telemedicine Network. Telemed J E Health. 2016;22(6):473-479.
  6. Evaluating the benefits telehealth – teleophthalmology Inter Tribal Health Authority and the Ministry of Health Services. Victoria (BC): British Columbia Ministry of Health Services; 2011: https://www.infoway-inforoute.ca/en/component/edocman/1742-evaluating-the-benefits-telehealth-teleophthalmology-inter-tribal-health-authority-and-the-ministry-of-health-services/view-document%20Accessed%202014%20Sept%2024. Accessed 2018 Apr 27.
  7. 2013 Canadian telehealth report: based on the 2012 telehealth survey. Toronto (ON): Canada's Health Informatics Association (COACH); 2013: https://www.coachorg.com/en/communities/resources/TeleHealth-Public-FINAL-web-062713-secured.pdf. Accessed 2018 Apr 27.
  8. Statistics Canada. Population, urban and rural, by province and territory (Canada). http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/demo62a-eng.htm. Accessed 2018 Apr 27.
  9. How healthy are rural Canadians? An assessment of their health status and health determinants. Ottawa (ON): Canadian Institute for Health Information; 2006: https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/rural_canadians_2006_report_e.pdf. Accessed 2018 Apr 27.
  10. Canadian Medical Association. Basic physician facts. 2017; https://www.cma.ca/En/Pages/basic-physician-facts.aspx. Accessed 2018 Apr 27.
  11. Thaker DA, Monypenny R, Olver I, Sabesan S. Cost savings from a telemedicine model of care in northern Queensland, Australia. Med J Aust. 2013;199(6):414-417.
  12. Kruse CS, Bouffard S, Dougherty M, Parro JS. Telemedicine use in rural native american communities in the era of the ACA: a systematic literature review. J Med Syst. 2016;40(6):145.

     

 


Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems for the Telescreening of Diabetic Retinopathy

Evidence has shown that the early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy (DR) is effective at reducing the risk of the disease progressing to serious complications like visual impairment.1,2 This underscores the need for timely and regular DR screening in people with diabetes.

Teleophthalmology, the provision of eye care remotely using information and communications technology, is well-established in Canada. This approach has been piloted or implemented for screening and evaluation of eye diseases, such as DR, in several communities across the country.2-4 Available evidence indicates that the use of teleophthalmology may be a suitable alternative to conventional eye examination methods and may help to improve access to DR screening, reduce screening costs, and avoid visits and unnecessary referrals to eye care specialists.5-9 In this article, we describe the Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS) platform, which is one of the recent technologies that aim to facilitate and improve how screening for DR is conducted in the context of teleophthalmology.


How it Works

The IRIS platform is a cloud-based software intended to be a comprehensive solution for screening and diagnosing DR, and coordinating related tasks such as patient referrals and billing.10,11 The software is compatible with cameras that take non-mydriatic (non-dilated pupils) fundus images of the retina.12 DR screening with the IRIS platform can be integrated in the primary care setting and other care environments. To initiate the screening process, a primary care professional or a trained individual captures images of the eye, along with the patient’s information, which are then securely uploaded to the IRIS cloud-based application. The software also creates an enhanced version of the original image by highlighting the vessels and nerve fibre layer of the retina.12 The company suggests that the enhanced image provides a better view of the retina and facilitates identification of potential abnormalities in the eye.12,13 After the necessary images and information are uploaded, the case is assigned to a licensed retina specialist or an ophthalmologist who can access the IRIS application via the Internet to review the images and provide a diagnosis.10,12 Screening results and, as needed, a plan for follow-up are entered into the system and transmitted to the provider who initiated the eye examination.10,12


Who Might Benefit?

Based on the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System data, about 3 million individuals (8.1% of the population) were diagnosed with diabetes in 2013-2014.14 The Canadian Diabetes Cost Model forecasts that this will rise to 11.4% by 2025.15 The same survey revealed that about 20% of all diabetes cases remain undiagnosed. DR is a common complication of diabetes and also a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Canada and worldwide.2,16 The prevalence of DR is estimated at 23% among individuals with type 1 diabetes and 14% among those with type 2 diabetes on insulin therapy.16 However, it is thought that almost all people with type 1 diabetes and most with type 2 diabetes will be affected by some form of DR in the first 20 years of living with diabetes.2,17

Thirty-two per cent of patients with type 2 diabetes received DR screening at the recommended frequency.2 Lower rates of DR screening may be expected in rural and remote areas where access to conventional eye care may be limited because of having to travel long distances and because of the costs associated with visiting locations that offer screening services. Further, the prevalence of DR among diabetic patients from Indigenous communities is estimated to range between 28.5% to 40%.2 Teleophthalmology programs built around technologies like the IRIS system may help improve access to DR screening in these communities.


Availability in Canada

The IRIS platform is neither approved, nor available, in Canada at the moment. This product received approval in the US as a Class II device in 2015 and is reportedly being used in more than 250 clinics across that country.10,11 There are no signs that the IRIS system has been implemented outside of the US and it is unknown if the manufacturer plans to expand to Canada in the future.


What Does It Cost?

Specific cost information for the IRIS platform could not be found in the various sources consulted, including the company’s website and other documents published on the technology. The manufacturer did not provide this information upon request. Information available on the manufacturer’s website suggests that IRIS implementation can be customized and the final cost may be based on the needs of the buyer.11

Several studies have compared the costs of DR screening using teleophthalmology to the conventional screening method performed by an eye care professional.5,7,8


Current Practice

The Canadian Ophthalmological Society published new evidence-based guidelines for the management of DR in 2017.2 The guidelines recommend that DR screening be initiated five years after the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes if a person is diagnosed after puberty. Screening should start at puberty in the case of type 1 diabetes diagnosed before puberty. For type 2 diabetes, the guidelines state that DR screening should start when the disease is diagnosed. The frequency of screening is to be determined based on the severity of retinopathy. Otherwise, in patients who do not have retinopathy, recommended screening intervals are one year for type 1 diabetes and one to two years for type 2 diabetes. The guidelines also support the use of teleophthalmology programs for providing and improving access to DR screening, particularly in populations where cultural, economic, and geographic factors may prevent diabetes patients from getting regularly screened for DR.


What Is the Evidence?

No published studies that evaluated the performance of the IRIS platform in the specific context of DR screening were identified. Three case studies are available on the manufacturer’s website regarding the implementation of the IRIS system in health care institutions in the US.18 It should be noted that performance data were not required for this product to be approved by the US FDA because it showed “substantial equivalence” to other licensed devices.10 Further, the IRIS system is not currently approved for diagnosing eye disease but rather for facilitating the administration of eye examinations and care within the health care system.19 This may help explain the lack of relevant evidence on performance.


Safety

No studies that assessed the safety of the IRIS system were identified.


Issues to Consider

The IRIS platform can be integrated into primary care facilities and various other care settings. Minimal training is purportedly required to perform the front-end part of the screening process — capturing the retinal images and patient information for uploading to the IRIS application.13 The ease of operation and availability of the system in the primary care setting allow providers to offer DR screening to patients at any suitable opportunity.

Implementation of the IRIS platform in a rural or remote setting does not appear to come with any considerations compared to other teleopthalmology systems. The provision of adequate training to local staff recruited from the community is noted as a key factor that can help in delivering effective teleophthalmology programs in rural and remote areas.3,5 Reliable Internet service is also an important consideration.


The IRIS system is one of several options currently available to provide and manage screening for DR under the teleophthalmology approach.20

Systems like the IRIS may be described as “assistive” in that they support and facilitate the work of eye care professionals in diagnosing eye disease. Of note, other products currently being developed or readied to enter the market are leveraging artificial intelligence to perform the automated diagnosis of DR and other eye diseases.19,21-23 These future systems would be autonomous and require no involvement of an eye care specialist in the diagnostic process.


Looking Ahead

Technologies that support the teleophthalmology care approach are growing in numbers and rapidly evolving. There are reasons to believe that automated diagnostic systems, such as the recently FDA-cleared IDx-DR,21 may occupy an important place in DR screening in the future. Consideration of the IRIS system should take account of this context.

Author: Bert Dolcine


References

  1. Ting DSW, Cheung GCM, Wong TY. Diabetic retinopathy: global prevalence, major risk factors, screening practices and public health challenges: a review. Clin Experiment Ophthalmol. 2016;44(4):260-277.
  2. Hooper P, Boucher MC, Cruess A, et al. Excerpt from the Canadian Ophthalmological Society evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for the management of diabetic retinopathy. Can J Ophthalmol. 2017;52 Suppl 1:S45-s74.
  3. Caffery LJ, Taylor M, Gole G, Smith AC. Models of care in tele-ophthalmology: A scoping review. J Telemed Telecare. 2017:1357633X17742182.
  4. Kanjee R, Dookeran RI. Tele-ophthalmology for diabetic retinopathy in Canada—meeting the needs of a growing epidemic. Can J Ophthalmol. 2016;51(3):133-134.
  5. Evaluating the benefits: Telehealth – teleOphthalmology Inter Tribal Health Authority and the Ministry of Health Services. Victoria (BC): British Columbia Ministry of Health Services; 2011: https://www.infoway-inforoute.ca/en/component/edocman/1742-evaluating-the-benefits-telehealth-teleophthalmology-inter-tribal-health-authority-and-the-ministry-of-health-services/view-document%20Accessed%202014%20Sept%2024. Accessed 2018 May 9.
  6. Labiris G, Panagiotopoulou EK, Kozobolis VP. A systematic review of teleophthalmological studies in Europe. Int J Ophthalmol. 2018;11(2):314-325.
  7. Rodriguez Villa S, Alonso Alvarez C, de Dios Del Valle R, et al. Five-year experience of tele-ophthalmology for diabetic retinopathy screening in a rural population. Arch Soc Esp Oftalmol. 2016;91(9):426-430.
  8. Invernizzi A, Bevilacqua MT, Cozzi M, et al. Diabetic retinopathy screening: the first telemedical approach in an Italian hospital. Eur J Ophthalmol. 2016;26(4):369-374.
  9. Daskivich LP, Vasquez C, Martinez C, Jr., Tseng CH, Mangione CM. Implementation and evaluation of a large-scale teleretinal diabetic retinopathy screening program in the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(5):642-649.
  10. 510(k) premarket notification: IRIS Intelligent Retinal Imaging System. Silver Spring (MD): U.S. Food and Drug Administration; 2015 Feb 27: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cdrh_docs/pdf14/K141922.pdf. Accessed 2018 May 9.
  11. Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems. The IRIS solution at work in your practice. http://www.retinalscreenings.com/solution. Accessed 2018 May 8.
  12. Naik S, Wykoff CC, Ou WC, Stevenson J, Gupta S, Shah AR. Identification of factors to increase efficacy of telemedicine screening for diabetic retinopathy in endocrinology practices using the Intelligent Retinal Imaging System (IRIS) platform. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2018;140:265-270.
  13. Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems. Harris Health. [2014]; http://www.retinalscreenings.com/customers/case-studies/harris-health. Accessed 2018 May 9.
  14. Government of Canada. Diabetes in Canada: Highlights from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System. 2017; https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/diabetes-canada-highlights-chronic-disease-surveillance-system.html. Accessed 2018 May 9.
  15. Diabetes Canada. 2015 report on Diabetes: Driving change. 2015; http://www.diabetes.ca/publications-newsletters/advocacy-reports/2015-report-on-diabetes-driving-change. Accessed 2018 May 9.
  16. Diabetes Canada. Eye damage (diabectic retinopathy). http://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/complications/eye-damage-diabetic-retinopathy. Accessed 2018 May 7.
  17. Fraser CE, D'Amico DJ. Diabetic retinopathy: Classification and clinical features. In: Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham (MA): UpToDate; 2018: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/diabetic-retinopathy-classification-and-clinical-features/print?search=diabetic%20retinopathy&source=search_result&selectedTitle=. Accessed 2018 Apr 2.
  18. Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems. IRIS drives real results for our customers and their patients.  http://www.retinalscreenings.com/customers. Accessed 2018 May 9.
  19. Walton OBt, Garoon RB, Weng CY, et al. Evaluation of automated teleretinal screening program for diabetic retinopathy. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016;134(2):204-209.
  20. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Retinal telescreening for diabetic retinopathy. 2018; https://www.bcbst.com/mpmanual/Retinal_Telescreening_for_Diabetic_Retinopathy_.htm. Accessed 2018 May 14.
  21. IDx LLC. FDA permits marketing of IDx-DR for automated detection of diabetic retinopathy in primary care. 2018; https://www.eyediagnosis.net/single-post/2018/04/12/FDA-permits-marketing-of-IDx-DR-for-automated-detection-of-diabetic-retinopathy-in-primary-care. Accessed 2018 May 10.
  22. Koh JEW, Ng EYK, Bhandary SV, Hagiwara Y, Laude A, Acharya UR. Automated retinal health diagnosis using pyramid histogram of visual words and Fisher vector techniques. Comput Biol Med. 2018;92:204-209.
  23. Valverde C, Garcia M, Hornero R, Lopez-Galvez MI. Automated detection of diabetic retinopathy in retinal images. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2016;64(1):26-32.

 


MELODY: A Teleoperated Robotic Ultrasound System

Ultrasound — using sound waves to create images of organs, tissues, and blood flow — offers advantages for medical imaging, but access to trained clinicians in remote communities is often limited.1 A device that allows experienced clinicians to remotely operate an ultrasound system located at a distant site using a robotic arm is emerging as an option for patients.


How It Works

The MELODY System (AdEchoTech, Naveil, France)2 is a telerobotic ultrasound system — meaning that it’s controlled at a distance by a human — comprised of separate “expert” and “patient” systems connected by land, satellite, or cellular Internet.3 It is designed to be used in combination with a conventional ultrasound system and video conferencing equipment.1

At the patient site, an assistant places an ultrasound probe, held by the MELODY robotic arm, on the patient under the guidance of a remotely located clinician.3 The assistant is also responsible for moving the arm and probe to the correct anatomical location(s) and adjusting the initial pressure at the direction of the clinician.1 At the expert site, the clinician uses a mock probe to control all the fine movements of the patient site probe through the robotic arm in real time; the clinician can also control all the ultrasound settings.1,3 Features of the mock probe allow the clinician to feel as though they are applying pressure to the patient, and for the patient system to maintain appropriate contact pressure.3 The clinician, patient, and assistant can interact with each other in real time through video conferencing equipment.3 For patient safety and comfort, the robotic arm is designed to apply a maximum force of 20 N and remain still at its last set position in the event the network connection is lost.3


Who Might Benefit?

A network of telerobotic ultrasound clinics could serve patients in low-volume or underserviced communities (where travel is often required to receive routine or specialty ultrasound exams) or help provide after-hours service.1,4 In larger communities, it could expand access to subspecialty ultrasound to low-volume clinics.1


Availability in Canada

The MELODY System is not currently licensed for use in Canada. The manufacturer anticipates approval in the summer of 2018 (Philippe Homsi, Export Manager, AdEchoTech, Naveil, France: personal communication, 2 May 2018). It received 510(k) approval for use in the US in 2017.5

The province of Saskatchewan plans to develop a remote ultrasound clinic, using the MELODY System, with patient sites in remote communities throughout the province.1 Two systems, one in La Loche and one in Stony Rapids, have been installed as part of the pilot project (Philippe Homsi: personal communication, 30 2018 May).


What Does It Cost?

We did not find any studies evaluating the cost of implementing the MELODY System. The manufacturer reports the purchase cost for a complete installation (MELODY System, ultrasound system, and videoconferencing system) is between C$150,000 and C$250,000, depending on the configuration, and includes a one-year warranty, maintenance, and training (Philippe Homsi: personal communication, 2018 May). In Saskatchewan, a complete MELODY System installation was deployed using a grant of C$300,000.6

A presentation by the manufacturer on a French study reported monthly leasing costs of €3,200 for the system.7 Other costs considered included patient site employees and payments to the operator at the expert site.7


Current Practice

Diagnostic ultrasound has wide applications including fetal imaging, cardiovascular disease, and soft-tissue injury.8 The use of ultrasound (i.e., number of examinations, devices, and locations) in Canada is not well-documented. Portable ultrasound systems that can be used at the point of care have emerged as a diagnostic tool in emergency departments and other out-of-hospital or remote locations.9,10 However, use in Canada may be limited by barriers such as lack of equipment, funding, and training; and the inability of clinicians to maintain ultrasound skills in low-volume settings.11


What Is the Evidence?

We found six observational studies of the MELODY System (or its predecessors)1,4,12-15 and six observational studies of telerobotic ultrasound systems in which the specific model used was unclear.16-21 Two presentations that included information on the use of the MELODY System were also identified.7,22 The studies were conducted in Saskatchewan1,4 (and also reported in a presentation23), France,7,12,14,16,17,19-22 Cyprus,13 the UK,15 and Sweden.18 To date, the system has been used for a variety of ultrasound examinations including abdominal sonography,1,12,17,19,21,23 echocardiography,13,14,18 obstetrics,4,19,20 and other small structures.12,17 It has also been tested over cellular networks.13,15 To focus on the Canadian context, a more detailed discussion of Saskatchewan’s implementation of the MELODY System follows.


Saskatchewan Studies

Researchers in Saskatchewan recruited adult patients scheduled for routine abdominal ultrasound examinations to assess the feasibility of deploying the MELODY System in the province.1,23 Image quality, duration of examination, and patient and clinician acceptance were compared with conventional ultrasound.1,23 Eighteen patients were included in the pilot study. The patient site was located at a Saskatoon imaging clinic 2.75 km away from the expert site at the city’s academic health sciences centre.

A second study, published in 2018, evaluated the feasibility of using the MELODY System to perform routine prenatal ultrasound examinations. Thirty women received both a conventional and a telerobotic ultrasound exam. Image quality and acceptability of the system by patients and clinicians compared with conventional ultrasound was evaluated. The patient site was a clinic room next to the expert site.4


Safety

No studies about the safety of the MELODY System were identified.


Issues to Consider


Telecommunication Infrastructure

To function correctly, a telerobotic system relies on a telecommunications network of sufficient quality and bandwidth to allow real-time transmission of force feedback, video, and other data (e.g., device settings).3 Even then, most telerobotic systems operating over long distances will experience communications delays. As well, many rural and remote Canadian communities do not have access to broadband Internet, although efforts are being made to narrow this gap.3,24,25


Training Requirements

Clinicians in Saskatchewan were provided with a 90-minute training session before using the ultrasound system and MELODY System.1


Staffing Needs

An assistant is required to help operate the system at the patient site.3 This may exceed the usual number of staff required to perform an exam.1 In Saskatchewan, an assistant with no prior health care experience was employed at the patient site.1


Examination Time

Two studies observed a longer examination time for the MELODY System than conventional ultrasound.1,12 Researchers in Saskatchewan note that increased examination times should be accounted for in future cost studies.1


Other Considerations

A 2016 review of medical telerobotic systems identified potential concerns including liability and responsibility should complications arise, network security, and patient privacy.3


A trans-Atlantic telerobotic ultrasound system has been tested between Munich, Germany and Boston.26 The state of its development and commercialization is unclear.

Hand-held ultrasound devices27,28 and novel ways of connecting clinicians with distant experts using FaceTime and Skype29,30 have been explored and may offer solutions for rural and remote communities.

Telerobotic systems used over short distances are common in specialties such as surgery and ophthalmology.3 Long-distance telerobotic systems, like the MELODY, are also emerging in fields such as general surgery and orthopedics.3


Looking Ahead

Improvements in our ability to transmit video and images over cellular networks are expected to expand the use of telerobotic systems.3 Currently, studies of the MELODY System have been limited to reported distances of under 50 km between sites.1,12,14 How longer distances, common in Canada, may affect the performance of the system is unknown.

Author: Jeff Mason


References

  1. Adams SJ, Burbridge BE, Badea A, et al. Initial experience using a telerobotic ultrasound system for adult abdominal sonography. Can Assoc Radiol J. 2017;68(3):308-314.
  2. AdEchoTech. MELODY, a remote, robotic ultrasound solution. 2016; http://www.adechotech.com/products/. Accessed April 18, 2018.
  3. Avgousti S, Christoforou EG, Panayides AS, et al. Medical telerobotic systems: current status and future trends. Biomed Eng Online. 2016;15(1):96.
  4. Adams SJ, Burbridge BE, Badea A, et al. A crossover comparison of standard and telerobotic approaches to prenatal sonography. J Ultrasound Med. 2018.
  5. FDA. MELODY, remote control system for ultrasound probe. 2017; https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cdrh_docs/pdf16/K161354.pdf. Accessed April 18, 2018.
  6. Modjeski M. Gift helps push Sask to forefront of remote ultrasound imaging. 2017; http://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/gift-helps-push-u-of-s-to-forefront-of-ultrasound-imaging. Accessed April 30, 2017.
  7. AdechoTech. Introduction of tele-ultrasonography on the island of Belle Isle: feedback June 2016 http://www.adechotech.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/161002-01-V01-C-NLE-EN_RetourExp%C3%A9rienceCHBI.pdf. Accessed April 18, 2018.
  8. Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Understanding sonography. 2018; http://www.sdms.org/resources/what-is-sonography/understanding-sonography. Accessed May 7, 2018.
  9. Nelson BP, Sanghvi A. Out of hospital point of care ultrasound: current use models and future directions. Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg. 2016;42(2):139-150.
  10. Buerger AM, Clark KR. Point-of-care ultrasound: a trend in health care. Radiol Technol. 2017;89(2):127-138.
  11. Micks T, Sue K, Rogers P. Barriers to point-of-care ultrasound use in rural emergency departments. CJEM. 2016;18(6):475-479.
  12. Georgescu M, Sacccomandi A, Baudron B, Arbeille PL. Remote sonography in routine clinical practice between two isolated medical centers and the university hospital using a robotic arm: a 1-year study. Telemed J E Health. 2016;22(4):276-281.
  13. Avgousti S, Panayides AS, Jossif AP, et al. Cardiac ultrasonography over 4G wireless networks using a tele-operated robot. Healthc Technol Lett. 2016;3(3):212-217.
  14. Arbeille P, Provost R, Zuj K, Dimouro D, Georgescu M. Teles-operated echocardiography using a robotic arm and an internet connection. Ultrasound Med Biol. 2014;40(10):2521-2529.
  15. Garawi S, Istepanian RSH, Abu-Rgheff MA. 3G wireless communications for mobile robotic tele-ultrasonography systems. IEEE Commun Mag. 2006;44(4):91-96.
  16. Arbeille P, Zuj K, Saccomandi A, Andre E, De La Porte C, Georgescu M. Tele-operated echography and remote guidance for performing tele-echography on geographically isolated patients. J Clin Med. 2016;5(58).
  17. Arbeille P, Zuj K, Saccomandi A, et al. Teleoperated echograph and probe transducer for remote ultrasound investigation on isolated patients (study of 100 cases). Telemed J E Health. 2016;22(7):599-607.
  18. Boman K, Olofsson M, Berggren P, Sengupta PP, Narula J. Robot-assisted remote echocardiographic examination and teleconsultation: a randomized comparison of time to diagnosis with standard of care referral approach. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;7(8):799-803.
  19. Arbeille P, Capri A, Ayoub J, Kieffer V, Georgescu M, Poisson G. Use of a robotic arm to perform remote abdominal telesonography. Am J Roentgenol. 2007;188(4):W317-322.
  20. Arbeille P, Ruiz J, Herve P, Chevillot M, Poisson G, Perrotin F. Fetal tele-echography using a robotic arm and a satellite link. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2005;26(3):221-226.
  21. Martinelli T, Bosson JL, Bressollette L, et al. Robot-based tele-echography: clinical evaluation of the TER system in abdominal aortic exploration. J Ultrasound Med. 2007;26(11):1611-1616.
  22. Assessment of the robotic tele-ultrasonography pilot study at Lannemezan Hospital. 2014; http://www.adechotech.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Lannemezan-Bilan-EN-2016.pdf. Accessed April 18, 2018.
  23. Adams SJ. Initial Canadian experience using a telerobotic ultrasound system to perform adult abdominal examinations. https://car.ca/uploads/Education%20Lifelong%20Learning/Meetings/ASM2016_Speakers_Pres/SE/SE013_Initial_Canadian_Experience_Using_a_Telerobotic_Ultrasound_System_to_Perform_Adult_Abdominal_Examinations_Adams.pdf. Accessed April 18, 2018.
  24. Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Telecom regulatory policy CRTC 2016-496. 2016; https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2016/2016-496.htm. Accessed May 9, 2018.
  25. Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. CRTC establishes fund to attain new high-speed Internet targets. 2016; https://www.canada.ca/en/radio-television-telecommunications/news/2016/12/crtc-establishes-fund-attain-new-high-speed-internet-targets.html. Accessed May 9, 2018.
  26. Sengupta PP, Narula N, Modesto K, et al. Feasibility of intercity and trans-Atlantic telerobotic remote ultrasound: assessment facilitated by a nondedicated bandwidth connection. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;7(8):804-809.
  27. Wright J, Noriega O, Ho H. The application of hand-held ultrasound scanner in teaching of telemedicine and rural medicine. DSJUOG. 2014;8(1):87-91.
  28. Evangelista A, Galuppo V, Mendez J, et al. Hand-held cardiac ultrasound screening performed by family doctors with remote expert support interpretation. Heart. 2016;102(5):376-382.
  29. Levine AR, Buchner JA, Verceles AC, et al. Ultrasound images transmitted via FaceTime are non-inferior to images on the ultrasound machine. J Crit Care. 2016;33:51-55.
  30. Lin JC, Crutchfield JM, Zurawski DK, Stevens C. Implementation of a virtual vascular clinic with point-of-care ultrasound in an integrated health care system. J Vasc Surg. 2018.

 


Video Directly Observed Therapy of Tuberculosis Treatment

Medication adherence and completion of therapy is needed to cure tuberculosis (TB).1,2 Incomplete treatment may cause drug-resistant disease that entails longer, more costly, and more toxic treatment regimens, and that increases the risk of transmitting the disease to others.2-5

People with active TB have signs of illness, while those with latent TB have no symptoms and are not contagious but harbour latent infection that could develop into active disease.6,7 Many people have non-respiratory forms of TB that can affect the bones, joints, lymph nodes, or central nervous system.8,9

Where possible, directly observed therapy (DOT) is recommended to improve medication adherence.1,8,10,11 Ideally, DOT involves a health care provider watching the patient take each dose of medication — typically, either at home or in a community clinic.2 As TB treatment can take several months or more, DOT is resource-intensive, involving time and travel for staff and patients.3,4,12 This can be especially problematic for people living in remote areas.


How it Works

Mobile technologies may alleviate some of the inconvenience and cost of DOT by allowing patients to record via video the ingestion of their medications at home and then relay the video to health care providers using a tablet, computer with a webcam, or smartphone.4,5,13 Various terms are used to describe this approach, including electronic DOT (eDOT), virtually observed therapy (VOT), wirelessly observed therapy (WOT), and video DOT (VDOT).13 In this article, we use the abbreviation VDOT.

The two main modes of VDOT are:

  • synchronous — where the patient video is “live” and the health care provider monitors the treatment in real time
  • asynchronous — or “store and forward,” where the patient video is saved and sent to be viewed by health care providers either immediately or at a later time.1,14


Who Might Benefit?

TB disproportionately affects socioeconomically disadvantaged populations because of factors such as inadequate housing, malnutrition, higher rates of smoking, and comorbid diseases.7,15-17 The challenges of remote geography (e.g., lack of road access, dispersed populations, shortage of health care staff) impact the provision of TB care in Northern Canada.7,8,16 In Inuit communities, TB is a serious health problem, with rates of infection almost 300 times than elsewhere in Canada.7,9,16

Canada had 1,737 reported cases of active TB in 2016.18 About 70% of cases were in immigrants to Canada, and 19% were in Indigenous people.18

Individuals with latent TB who are at higher risk for developing active TB also need drug treatment.8 Those at higher risk are infants, people who are immunocompromised, people with diabetes, residents of prisons or long-term care facilities, health care workers, the homeless, and injection drug users.7-9


Availability in Canada

Various mobile health products for providing VDOT are available, including videoconferencing programs, such as Skype and FaceTime, and specialized platforms to monitor drug adherence, such as SureAdhere VDOT (SureAdhere Mobile Technology), emocha (emocha Mobile Health), and AiCure.13

A Toronto Public Health pilot program of VDOT, initiated in 2011,19 has since been expanded and now uses the Ontario Telemedicine Network. Patients can use their own mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, or computers) to log into a secure video link with Toronto Public Health staff. The TB program currently supports up to 40 patients by VDOT, which constitutes about 20% of the total patients currently receiving DOT services. Health care staff providing VDOT can see an average of 18 stable patients per day, whereas staff seeing patients in the community can see an average of 10 patients per day depending on the complexity of the patient care (Theresa Samarita, Toronto Public Health, Toronto, ON: personal communication, 2018 Apr 11). Elsewhere in Ontario, the Region of Peel also uses the Ontario Telemedicine Network to provide VDOT to some of their patients with TB (Sheryll Gordon, Region of Peel, Brampton, ON: personal communication, 2018 May 4) and the Middlesex-London Health Unit plans to use this network to do so in future (Jody Paget, Middlesex-London Health Unit, London, ON: personal communication, 2018 May 8).20


What Does It Cost?

In a Maryland study using emocha, the costs of accessing the software were estimated at US$50 per patient, per month.21 For developed countries, the cost of SureAdhere VDOT is US$35 per patient, per month (Kelly Collins, SureAdhere Mobile Technology, San Diego, CA: personal communication, 2018 Apr 30).


Current Practice

TB treatment may require multiple drug therapies, usually taken for months, or longer for drug-resistant TB.2,8,22 DOT is recommended for monitoring compliance with therapy, particularly for patients at risk for not completing treatment.2,3,8,21


What is the Evidence?

A systematic review23 of digital technologies in the management of TB identified two observational studies that compared the effectiveness of VDOT to standard DOT4,24 These studies reported on the adherence to scheduled treatment sessions,4 treatment completion,4 and the rate of missed observations.24

Two additional observational studies were also identifed21,25 that compared VDOT and in-person DOT, or evaluated VDOT with no comparator. The studies looked at medication adherence21,25 and user acceptance.21 In addition, a conference abstract was identified that reported on a UK randomized controlled trial.26 It reported on adherence to scheduled treatment and treatment completion.


Cost Considerations

Several small US studies of cost considerations were identified,3-5,21,27-29 as well as one study from Australia24 and the aforementioned UK conference abstract.26 These studies assessed potential cost-savings with VDOT compared to DOT — considering factors such as staff travel and time. The New York City study found that, with VDOT, health care staff were able to observe up to 25 patients per day — similar to the number seen in a clinic but double the number seen using community visits.4 No Canadian cost studies were identified.


Safety

None of the studies reported any direct patient safety concerns with VDOT.


Issues to Consider


Technical Issues

In one study, over a one-year period, 95% of VDOT individual sessions were successfully completed. Technical problems included slow Internet connections, smartphone problems, and computer or software issues.4 In another study, more than half of the patients had at least one rejected video (2.1% of all videos), mainly because of poor quality of the video.21 A US/Mexico study found that most patients (89%) were able to record videos without problems, but lost, stolen, or broken phones were an issue for six patients (12%), and some patient videos were lost due to technical issues.25


Connectivity

High bandwidth Internet access or smartphones with a data plan access are needed to ensure image quality and file transfer in VDOT.30 Many remote Canadian communities do not have broadband Internet or cell phone network access.31 About half of the communities in Nunavut do not currently have cell phone service, although new satellite infrastructure to resolve this should be in place by 2019.32

In the Puerto Rico study of VDOT for long-term care residents with cognitive impairments and TB, investigators noted that synchronous (live) VDOT was not feasible because of poor Internet reception but that asynchronous VDOT could be used.27


Privacy and Data Security

Ensuring the security and confidentiality of health data in mobile health technologies that use cloud-based technology is complex.33,34 In the US, companies must meet the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). In Canada, health privacy regulations vary between jurisdictions and HIPAA compliance does not address all provincial health data privacy requirements, particularly when the data are stored outside of Canada.33,34


Training

Patients may need training on using the smartphone or other videoconferencing platforms. A US study that used Skype on patients’ personal smartphones or computers estimated that nursing staff spent about one hour on training for each patient.5 Maryland study patients all reported VDOT was “easy to use.”21


Patient Perspectives

The relationship between the health providers and the patient is an important part of medication adherence, but some evidence suggests this can be maintained with VDOT.2,4,5,24

Patients have reported that VDOT is more convenient and this contributes to patient-centred care.4,5,21,23,24,35,36 Patients have also reported that VDOT offered greater privacy than in-home DOT,24,25 and that they prefer VDOT to in-person DOT.5,21,25,35 However, other investigators caution that patient acceptability of mobile health should not be assumed2,14 — not all patients are able to use the technology, and this option is not suitable for all patients with TB.5,13,25


Ethical Considerations

Two US researchers have outlined four elements of an ethical framework for assessing mobile health technologies in managing TB therapy adherence.2 These elements include accuracy of the technology in monitoring compliance, stigmatization and intrusiveness of monitoring, use of incentives, and balancing the good of the individual with that of the public.2


Another smartphone development for VDOT incorporates artificial intelligence for the automated assessment of medication adherence — alleviating the need for the DOT of each patient.37,38 The smartphone app sends patients reminders for each dosage and walks them through the steps involved. Each dose is recorded by video and the data transmitted to a central, cloud-based dashboard. Software algorithms detect missed or incorrect doses and send reminders to nursing staff for follow-up.37 The technology AiCure was used in a pilot study of patients with active and latent TB patients in Los Angeles37 and is now in use in TB programs in California and Illinois (Ted Kirby, AiCure, New York, NY: personal communication, 2018 Apr 24). The AiCure technology is currently being used to monitor medication adherence in drug trials in Canada but has not yet been used for TB patients here (Ted Kirby: personal communication, 2018 Apr 24).

Digitized medications for WOT incorporate ingestible sensors into drug capsules.12,39 The ingestible component transmits data to a wearable sensor and mobile device to monitor and support adherence.2,12 Technology platforms for digitized medications include the Proteus (Proteus Digital Health) and ID-Cap (etectRx).2

Earlier innovations, such as electronic medication monitors or “smart pill boxes,” use sensors to detect the opening of the pill container by the patient and relay this information to a remote server — although this may not accurately reflect drug ingestion.12,23 At-home urine testing to measure drug levels is another method of assessing adherence to therapy.2


Looking Ahead

In both urban and rural areas, VDOT achieved similar treatment adherence to standard DOT, and with cost-savings in staff time and travel costs.2,23 Possibly, VDOT may improve treatment adherence where DOT is not currently effectively delivered.23 For patients in rural and remote areas, VDOT may remove some of the geographic barriers to receiving TB care.2 It may also be useful in managing treatment for patients with latent TB, where treatments are not usually monitored with DOT.23,25

Mobile health technologies, including new ways of providing DOT, are expected to facilitate the World Health Organization’s End TB Strategy.22,23 These technologies could also be used to help manage other health concerns for people with TB, such as the promotion of smoking cessation or compliance with HIV or hepatitis treatments.5,22

Indigenous Services Canada and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami non-profit organization are developing a framework for eliminating TB in Inuit populations,16 and earlier this year the Public Health Agency of Canada released a report calling for collaborative efforts to eliminate TB in Canada.7

For more information, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has produced a free toolkit to help implement VDOT into clinical practice in different settings.13

Author: Leigh-Ann Topfer


References

  1. Using telehealth for directly observed therapy in treating tuberculosis. Sacramento (CA): Center for Connected Health Policy; 2015: http://www.cchpca.org/using-telehealth-directly-observed-therapy-treating-tuberculosis. Accessed 2018 May 2.
  2. DiStefano MJ, Schmidt H. mHealth for tuberculosis treatment adherence: a framework to guide ethical planning, implementation, and evaluation. Glob Health Sci Pract. 2016;4(2):211-221.
  3. Buchman T, Cabello C. A new method to directly observe tuberculosis treatment: Skype observed therapy, a patient-centered approach. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2017;23(2):175-177.
  4. Chuck C, Robinson E, Macaraig M, Alexander M, Burzynski J. Enhancing management of tuberculosis treatment with video directly observed therapy in New York City. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2016;20(5):588-593.
  5. Mirsaeidi M, Farshidpour M, Banks-Tripp D, Hashmi S, Kujoth C, Schraufnagel D. Video directly observed therapy for treatment of tuberculosis is patient-oriented and cost-effective. Eur Respir J. 2015;46(3):871-874.
  6. Giles S. Canadians must hold government accountable in Nunavut's tuberculosis outbreak. CBC News 2018; http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/nunavut-tuberculosis-outbreak-1.4633882. Accessed 2018 Apr 25.
  7. The time is now - Chief Public Health Officer spotlight on eliminating tuberculosis in Canada. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada; 2018: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/corporate/publications/chief-public-health-officer-reports-state-public-health-canada/eliminating-tuberculosis.html. Accessed 2018 May 10.
  8. Canadian tuberculosis standards. 7th ed. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada; 2014: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/infectious-diseases/canadian-tuberculosis-standards-7th-edition.html. Accessed 2018 Apr 29.
  9. Kitai I, Morris SK, Kordy F, Lam R. Diagnosis and management of pediatric tuberculosis in Canada. CMAJ. 2017;189(1):E11-e16.
  10. Guidelines for treatment of drug-susceptible tuberculosis and patient care, 2017 update. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO); 2017: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/255052/9789241550000-eng.pdf;jsessionid=1EDB81CF1CA6207401B509B58BC4F663?sequence=1. Accessed 2018 May 2.
  11. Nahid P, Dorman SE, Alipanah N, et al. Executive summary: official American Thoracic Society/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Infectious Diseases Society of America clinical practice guidelines: treatment of drug-susceptible tuberculosis. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2016;63(7):853-867.
  12. Browne SH, Peloquin C, Santillo F, et al. Digitizing medicines for remote capture of oral medication adherence using co-encapsulation. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2018;103(3):502-510.
  13. Implementing an electronic Directly Observed Therapy (eDOT) program: a toolkit for tuberculosis (TB) programs. Atlanta (GA): U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention; 2017: https://www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/guidestoolkits/tbedottoolkit.htm. Accessed 2018 May 2.
  14. Digital health for the End TB strategy: progress since 2015 and future perspectives. Meeting report 7-8 February 2017. (WHO/HTM/TB/2017.02). Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO); 2017: http://www.who.int/tb/publications/digitalhealth-meetingreport2017/en/. Accessed 2018 Apr 20.
  15. Long R, Heffernan C, Gao Z, Egedahl ML, Talbot J. Do "virtual" and "outpatient" public health tuberculosis clinics perform equally well? A program-wide evaluation in Alberta, Canada. PLoS One. 2015;10(12):e0144784.
  16. Patterson M, Finn S, Barker K. Addressing tuberculosis among Inuit in Canada. Can Commun Dis Rep. 2018;44(3/4):82-85.
  17. Falzon D, Raviglione M, Bel EH, Gratziou C, Bettcher D, Migliori GB. The role of eHealth and mHealth in tuberculosis and tobacco control: a WHO/ERS consultation. Eur Respir J. 2015;46(2):307-311.
  18. Vachon J, Gallant V, Siu W. Tuberculosis in Canada, 2016. Can Commun Dis Rep. 2018;44(3/4):75-81.
  19. Gassanov MA, Feldman LJ, Sebastian A, Kraguljac MJ, Rea E, Yaffe B. The use of videophone for directly observed therapy for the treatment of tuberculosis. Can J Public Health. 2013;104(3):e272.
  20. Aitchison A, Gordon S, Samarita T, Sebastian A. Here's looking at you! Video technology - an innovative approach to providing directly observed therapy to TB cases. Tuberculosis Conference 2012: https://10012.thankyou4caring.org/document.doc?id=1463. Accessed 2018 May 2.
  21. Holzman SB, Zenilman A, Shah M. Advancing patient-centered care in tuberculosis management: a mixed-methods appraisal of video directly observed therapy. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2018;5(4):1-8.
  22. Falzon D, Migliori G, Jaramillo E, Raviglione M. Digital health technology for the end TB strategy: Developing priority products and making them work. European Respiratory Journal Conference: European Respiratory Society Annual Congress. 2016;48(Supplement 60).
  23. Ngwatu BK, Nsengiyumva NP, Oxlade O, et al. The impact of digital health technologies on tuberculosis treatment: a systematic review. Eur Respir J. 2018;51(1).
  24. Wade VA, Karnon J, Eliott JA, Hiller JE. Home videophones improve direct observation in tuberculosis treatment: a mixed methods evaluation. PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e50155.
  25. Garfein RS, Collins K, Munoz F, et al. Feasibility of tuberculosis treatment monitoring by video directly observed therapy: a binational pilot study. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2015;19(9):1057-1064.
  26. Story A, Aldridge R, Smith C, et al. A randomised controlled trial comparing smartphone enabled remote video observation with direct observation of treatment for tuberculosis. Thorax. 2017;72 (Supplement 3):A21.
  27. Olano-Soler H, Thomas D, Joglar O, et al. Notes from the field: use of asynchronous video directly observed therapy for treatment of tuberculosis and latent tuberculosis infection in a long-term-care facility - Puerto Rico, 2016-2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66(50):1386-1387.
  28. Holzschuh EL, Province S, Johnson K, et al. Use of video directly observed therapy for treatment of latent tuberculosis infection - Johnson County, Kansas, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66(14):387-389.
  29. Krueger K, Ruby D, Cooley P, et al. Videophone utilization as an alternative to directly observed therapy for tuberculosis. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2010;14(6):779-781.
  30. Denkinger CM, Grenier J, Stratis AK, Akkihal A, Pant-Pai N, Pai M. Mobile health to improve tuberculosis care and control: a call worth making. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2013;17(6):719-727.
  31. Digital Canada 150. 2016; https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/028.nsf/eng/50010.html. Accessed 2018 Apr 30.
  32. Frizzell S. Competitive cell service coming to all Nunavut communities by 2019. CBC News 2017; http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/cell-service-nunavut-communities-1.4296826. Accessed 2018 Apr 30.
  33. How to protect Canadian health data: Canadian healthcare and U.S. cloud services: is HIPAA compliance good enough for Canadian health data? 2017; https://waelhassan.com/from-hipaa-to-phipa-baa/. Accessed 2018 Apr 30.
  34. Thorogood A, Simkevitz H, Phillips M, Dove ES, Joly Y. Protecting the privacy of Canadians' health information in the cloud. CJLT. 2016;14:173-213.
  35. Sinkou H, Hurevich H, Rusovich V, et al. Video-observed treatment for tuberculosis patients in Belarus: findings from the first programmatic experience. Eur Respir J. 2017;49(3).
  36. Story A, Garfein RS, Hayward A, et al. Monitoring therapy adherence of tuberculosis patients by using video-enabled electronic devices. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2016;22(3):538-540.
  37. Shafner L, Chang AH, Hernandez AD, Hanina A. Evaluating the use of an artificial intelligence (AI) platform on mobile devices to measure and support tuberculosis medication adherence. 21st Conference of the Union North America Region, 22-25 February 2017. [Vancouver, BC]2017: https://aicure.com/pdf_downloads/evaluating-the-use-of-an-artificial-intelligence-ai-platform-on-mobile-devices-to-measure-and-support-tuberculosis-medication-adherence/. Accessed 2018 Apr 29.
  38. Doshi R, Falzon D, Thomas BV, et al. Tuberculosis control, and the where and why of artificial intelligence. ERJ open res. 2017;3(2).
  39. mHealth UCSD. NCT01960257: Wirelessly observed therapy in comparison to directly observed therapy for the treatment of tuberculosis.. Bethesda, MD: ClinicalTrials.gov; 2017: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01960257. Accessed 2018 Apr 4.

 


A Rapid Point-of-Care Test to Differentiate Bacterial From Viral Acute Upper Respiratory Infections

Acute upper respiratory infections — which include the common cold, rhinosinusitis, pharyngitis, and bronchitis — are a common reason for primary care visits.1,2 Patients with bacterial and viral upper respiratory infections may have similar symptoms (for example, fever, sore throat, or cough), making clinical diagnosis and management difficult.3,4

Most upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses, and most will resolve without treatment. But for some patients with bacterial infections, such as group A Streptococcus, antibiotics may be needed.1,5-7 Antibiotics are not recommended for viral infections, yet these are often prescribed for respiratory infections for various reasons, including the difficulty in making a diagnosis based on clinical symptoms alone and the delay in getting the results of more definitive laboratory tests.3,7-10

A point-of-care blood test, FebriDx, may help health care providers identify clinically significant infections, distinguish bacterial from viral infections during the initial primary care office visit, and prescribe antibiotics more judiciously.3,10


How It Works

FebriDx is an add-on test and is not intended to be used as a stand-alone diagnostic test, or to replace other tests. Rather, it is to be used in combination with clinical assessments and other diagnostic assessments, as needed.11

FebriDx is a single-use, finger stick blood test that provides results in 10 minutes.7,12 The immunoassay identifies two proteins (biomarkers) in the blood that are elevated as part of the body’s immune response to infection:10

  • C-reactive protein (CRP), a biomarker of bacterial infection (CRP ≥ 20 mg/L is used as the threshold)7
  • myxovirus resistance protein A (MxA), a biomarker of viral infection (MxA ≥ 40 ng/mL is used as the threshold).10

Combining the two biomarkers increases the clinical utility of the test compared to using a single biomarker, such as CRP.13,14 Results appear as lines on the test card (black for elevated CRP, red for elevated MxA, and blue for negative results when neither biomarker is elevated).11 Elevated MxA, with or without an elevated CRP, is considered a viral infection. Elevated CRP with no elevation of MxA is considered a bacterial infection. Coinfections, where both viral and bacterial acute respiratory infections are present, are estimated to occur in less than 2% of cases.2


Who Might Benefit?

FebriDx is intended for use in patients over the age of two, within three days of the onset of fever and within seven days of the onset of respiratory symptoms.11,15 Test results should be considered in clinical context; for example, the results may be affected by altered immune responses in people taking immunosuppressants or antibiotics, trauma patients, or those with chronic health conditions that affect their immune response.10,11,16

Acute respiratory infections are the main reason for antibiotic prescriptions in primary care.4 Rates of respiratory tract infections and related hospitalizations are higher in Indigenous populations than in non-Indigenous populations in Canada.17


Availability in Canada

FebriDx (RPS Diagnostics, Sarasota, Florida) received a Health Canada licence in December 2015.18 The manufacturer is seeking Canadian distributors and the test is not currently in clinical use here (Dr. Robert Sambursky, RPS Diagnostics, Sarasota, FL: personal communication, 2018 April 6).


What Does It Cost?

FebriDx comes in a box of 25 disposable test kits. Each individual test includes an all-in-one retractable lancet, blood collection and transfer tube, and push-button buffer delivery mechanism (Dr. Robert Sambursky: personal communication, 2018 May).12 Each test costs approximately US$15 to US$18 (Dr. Robert Sambursky: personal communication, 2018 April). This would be an additional cost to current practice.


Current Practice

Depending on the patient’s symptoms and clinical assessment, the diagnosis of upper respiratory infection may involve throat swab and culture, point-of-care rapid antigen detection tests, chest X-ray, or other diagnostic tests.10,14,19

Table 1: FebriDx Studies

Study Patients Setting Study Type Intervention Comparator Results
Sensitivity Specificity Positive Predictive Value Negative Predictive Value Other
Shapiro et al. (2018)7
US
  • convenience sample of n = 220 children (age > 1 year) and adults with fever and signs of upper respiratory infections at 10 centresa
  • multi-centre cross-sectional diagnostic test accuracy study (prospective enrolment)
FebriDx compared with clinical algorithm of standard testsb Full population
Bacterial: 85%
Viral: 90%
Confirmed febrile (n = 121)
Bacterial: 95%
Viral: 90%
Full population
Bacterial: 93%
Viral: 76%
Confirmed febrile (n = 121)
Bacterial: 94%
Viral: 78%
Full population
Bacterial: 69%
Viral: 83%
Confirmed febrile (n = 121)
Bacterial: 76%
Viral: 89%
Full population
Bacterial: 97%
Viral: 85%
Confirmed febrile (n = 121)
Bacterial: 99%
Viral: 80%
 
Self et al. (2017)10 US
  • convenience sample of n = 205 children (n = 61) and adults (n = 144) with upper respiratory infections
  • multi-centre crosssectional diagnostic test accuracy study (prospective enrolment)
FebriDx compared with clinical algorithm of standard reference testsc Bacterial: 80%
Viral: 87%
Bacterial: 93%
Viral:83%
Bacterial: 63%
Viral: 64%
Bacterial: 97%
Viral: 95%
 
Davidson (2017)3 UK
  • n = 21 children and adults with upper or lower respiratory infections
  • retrospective chart review
FebriDx with clinical assessment versus clinical assessment alone (within subject)         Change in clinical management = 10/21 (48%);
Reduced antibiotics = 8/10 (80%)
Sambursky and Shapiro (2015)13 US
  • n = 60 adults with sore throat (n = 19) or lower respiratory tract infection (n = 41)d
  • single-centre, diagnostic, case-control study (prospective enrolment)
[FebriDx] immunoassay compared with standard reference testsd Bacterial: 80%
Viral: 70%f
92%f      

a Three patients excluded (two because of incomplete reference standard tests and one because of an invalid FebriDx test).
b Reference tests include: bacterial cultures, respiratory polymerase chain reaction panels, procalcitonin, white blood cell count, with expert physician override in patients presenting with confirmed fever (55%) versus history of fever (45%) within the prior three days.
c Reference tests include: bacterial cultures, polymerase chain reaction test using the FilmArray Respiratory Panel, Epstein-Barr virus testing, polymerase chain reaction panels, white blood cell count, with MxA protein enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay & CRP immunoassay testing) with expert physician override.
d Results available for 54 patients; 6 invalid/indeterminate tests because of sample problems.
e For example: viral PCR, bacterial cell culture, ELISA measurement of C-reactive protein and MxA, urine samples, and white blood cell count.
f Results for pharyngitis and lower respiratory tract infection combined.


What Is the Evidence

Four studies of the FebriDx test were identified.3,7,10,13 This includes three US diagnostic test accuracy studies that looked at the agreement between FebriDx and various reference standard tests, and test sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive value.7,10,13 One UK retrospective chart review studied the impact of using FebriDx on patient management and antibiotic prescribing.3 There is currently no gold standard test for differentiating between bacterial and viral respiratory infections.10 Consequently, the comparator reference standard tests used in the studies varied. Study characteristics and findings are presented in Table 1.

In addition, a July 2017 briefing by the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) concluded that “… there was very limited evidence in terms of quantity and quality to assess the FebriDx test.”14 This brief was published before the 2018 US,7 and the 2017 US10 and UK,3 study results were available.


Safety

The main concern with any diagnostic test is the impact on patient care as a result of a missed, delayed, or incorrect test result.20 Untreated bacterial infections may be self-limiting or may cause serious illness, while the ineffective treatment of viral infections with antibiotics can cause adverse reactions, as well as contributing to antimicrobial resistance.13 No clinical adverse events were reported in the studies of FebriDx.3


Issues to Consider

The cost of the FebriDx test, and staff time providing the test, may be offset by the reduced use of unnecessary antibiotics and their associated adverse effects.14 One UK specialist commented that it could reduce hospital stays through the more timely administration of antibiotics to patients with pneumonia.14 A recent US review speculated that using FebriDx in primary care may decrease the need for point-of-care streptococcus and flu tests and reduce these costs.4

A European commentary on point-of-care tests for respiratory tract infections suggested that incentives to primary care physicians may be needed to encourage the adoption of these first-generation technologies.8

Unlike other rapid tests for bacterial infection, the FebriDx does not require laboratory access or equipment, such as a benchtop analyzer.4,14

The FebriDx test cannot identify which particular bacteria or virus is causing the infection.4,13 FebriDx is not intended to provide a final diagnosis but is rather an additional decision aid for the primary care practitioner. One UK specialist comment in the NICE briefing was that C-reactive protein testing had been shown to reduce prescriptions for antibiotics, but that the benefit of adding MxA still needed to be demonstrated.14

Most of the evidence to date has been in adult populations and more studies in children are needed.7

In the UK, where the FebriDx test is available, training is provided by the distributor.14 One specialist commentator for the UK NICE briefing noted that the FebriDx test is “… simpler than benchtop analyser tests and can therefore be used by health care assistants with minimal training.”14 The use of the test may lengthen the patient-health provider consult time (to accommodate the wait for test results); however, unlike with benchtop analyzers, multiple tests could be run concurrently.14


Other studies of FebriDx are planned or underway. One UK study, expected to be completed in July 2018, is assessing its use in urgent care. A UK health technology assessment, which will compare FebriDx to stand-alone CRP testing, is planned to start in the summer of 2018 (Dr. Robert Sambursky: personal communication, 2018 April). A further study, using a new quantitative version of FebriDx, will begin in the fall of 2019 (Dr. Robert Sambursky: personal communication, 2018 May 15).

Other investigators and manufacturers are assessing single biomarkers (such as CRP or procalcitonin) or different combinations of biomarkers to differentiate bacterial and viral respiratory infections.4,21 Other rapid point-of-care tests for respiratory infections are also entering primary care practice; for example, the cobas Liat System (Roche Molecular Diagnostics) and Alere i (Abbott) tests for influenza.22


Looking Ahead

Using point-of-care tests to differentiate between bacterial and viral respiratory infections may improve the appropriate prescribing of antibiotics in primary care and contribute to antibiotic stewardship.14 A recent US study found that the majority of patients with respiratory tract infections in six primary care clinics would be willing to have a blood test to help determine whether antibiotic treatment could be avoided.23

Author: Leigh-Ann Topfer


References

  1. Aabenhus R, Jensen JU, Jorgensen KJ, Hrobjartsson A, Bjerrum L. Biomarkers as point-of-care tests to guide prescription of antibiotics in patients with acute respiratory infections in primary care. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014(11):CD010130.
  2. Harris AM, Hicks LA, Qaseem A. Appropriate antibiotic use for acute respiratory tract infection in adults: advice for high-value care from the American College of Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ann Intern Med. 2016;164(6):425-434.
  3. Davidson M. FebriDx point-of-care testing to guide antibiotic therapy for acute respiratory tract infection in UK primary care: a retrospective outcome analysis. J Infect Dis Preve Med. 2017;5.
  4. Joseph P, Godofsky E. Outpatient antibiotic stewardship: a growing frontier-combining myxovirus resistance protein A with other biomarkers to improve antibiotic use. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2018;5(2):ofy024.
  5. Science M, Bitnun A, McIsaac W. Identifying and treating group A streptococcal pharyngitis in children. Can Med Assoc J. 2015;187(1):13-14.
  6. Guideline for the diagnosis and management of acute pharyngitis. Edmonton (AB): Alberta Medical Association; 2008.
  7. Shapiro NI, Self WH, Rosen J, et al. A prospective, multi-center US clinical trial to determine accuracy of FebriDx point-of-care testing for acute upper respiratory infections with and without a confirmed fever [draft]. Ann Med. 2018.
  8. Kaman WE, Elshout G, Bindels PJ, Mitsakakis K, Hays JP. Current problems associated with the microbiological point-of-care testing of respiratory tract infections in primary care. Future Microbiol. 2016;11:607-610.
  9. Silverman M, Povitz M, Sontrop JM, Shariff SZ. Antibiotic prescribing for nonbacterial acute upper respiratory infections in elderly persons. Ann Intern Med. 2017;167(10):758-759.
  10. Self WH, Rosen J, Sharp SC, et al. Diagnostic accuracy of FebriDx: a rapid test to detect immune responses to viral and bacterial upper respiratory infections. J Clin Med. 2017;6(10).
  11. FebriDx quick reference guide. 2018; https://www.rpsdetectors.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/FORM-MKT-319.2_FebriDx-QRG-EU.pdf. Accessed April 3, 2018.
  12. RPS Diagnostics partners with Atomo Diagnostics to develop next generation FebriDx blood tests for antibiotic stewardship in the outpatient setting [press release]. 2018; http://www.prweb.com/releases/2018/02/prweb15225059.htm. Accessed May 3, 2018.
  13. Sambursky R, Shapiro N. Evaluation of a combined MxA and CRP point-of-care immunoassay to identify viral and/or bacterial immune response in patients with acute febrile respiratory infection. Eur Clin Respir J. 2015;2:28245.
  14. FebriDx for C-reactive protein and Myxovirus resistance protein A testing in primary care. London: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE); 2017.
  15. Godkin D. Viral or bacterial? Febridx differentiates to mitigate antibiotic overuse. Med Device Dly. 2016;20(25):1,8.
  16. FebriDx package insert. 2015; https://www.rpsdetectors.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/SPEC-MKT-044.2_FebriDx-Package-Insert-CE-Mark.pdf. Accessed May 24, 2018.
  17. Statistics Canada. Housing conditions and respiratory hospitalizations among First Nations people in Canada. 2017; https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2017004/article/14789-eng.htm. Accessed April 24, 2018.
  18. Medical devices active licences search. Health Canada. https://health-products.canada.ca/mdall-limh/prepareSearch-preparerRecherche.do;jsessionid=4BE0FE0B866F40855C18AB038D3DFE4C?type=active. Accessed May 3, 2018.
  19. Lean WL, Arnup S, Danchin M, Steer AC. Rapid diagnostic tests for group A streptococcal pharyngitis: a meta-analysis. Pediatrics. 2014;134(4):771-781.
  20. Singh H, Schiff GD, Graber ML, Onakpoya I, Thompson MJ. The global burden of diagnostic errors in primary care. BMJ Qual Saf. 2017;26(6):484-494.
  21. ImmunoXpert(TM) for diagnosing bacterial and viral infections. Birmingham (UK): University of Birmingham. NIHR Horizon Scanning Research & Intelligence Centre;2016.
  22. Mason J. Point-of-care testing for influenza. Ottawa: CADTH; 2016.
  23. Schwartz M, Hardy V, Keppel GA, et al. Patient willingness to have tests to guide antibiotic use for respiratory tract infections: from the WWAMI Region Practice and Research Network (WPRN). J Am Board Fam Med. 2017;30(5):645-656.

 


Focus On: Drone Applications in Health Care

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, originated in the military.1 Today, commercial drones are readily available to businesses and individuals.1 As drone technology evolves, it may offer solutions for expanding the delivery of health services to Canadians living in communities where access is restricted by long distances and limited or seasonal road access.


Drone Technology

A drone is any vehicle that can be operated without a person on board — in some cases, autonomously.1,2 Most people are familiar with airborne drones used recreationally, or for research or commercial purposes (such as aerial photography).1 Although drones vary in shape, size, speed, and other features, a general distinction can be made in the way they fly: fixed-wing (like a small airplane) or rotor-wing (like small helicopters).1 They can be launched by being thrown, catapulted, launched from pneumatic (compressed air or gas-powered) launchers, or using conventional runway systems.2 Drones can often fly longer than traditional human-piloted aircraft and can be customized with sensors and equipment (such as cameras and storage compartments), making them appealing for research and commercial purposes.1

In Canada, the number of drones being used for non-recreational purposes was expected to exceed 87,000 in 2017.1 Globally, companies such as Zipline,3 Drone Delivery Canada,4 Matternet,5 and Vayu6 all currently deploy drones to deliver medical supplies and laboratory samples.


Potential Uses in Health Care

Research into health care applications of drones abounds; however, the literature we identified is currently limited to simulations, feasibility studies, and theoretical models, and does not evaluate health outcomes.7-20 Reports of organizations using drones to provide health care services are also plentiful.21-25


Real-World and Simulated Uses


Transporting Medical Equipment, Supplies, and Biological Samples

In Canada, paramedics in Renfrew County just outside Ottawa have been testing multi-rotor drones to deliver automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to rural residents since 2016.21 In Sweden, researchers have conducted real-world simulations using drones to deliver AEDs to bystanders who have witnessed an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.7,8

Moose Cree First Nation in northern Ontario is experimenting with drone delivery for key supplies, including medical supplies, over the 2.5 km stretch of water separating the island community from the mainlaind.22

Elsewhere, fixed-wing drones have been used in Rwanda since 2011 to deliver blood supplies over mountainous terrain without paved roads,23 while in Madagascar and Malawi, drones are being tested and used to deliver patient samples to central labs.24,25 In a series of feasibility and proof-of-concept studies, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have studied how drone delivery affects routine laboratory tests,9 blood samples,10 blood products,11 and microbes in blood and sputum samples.12


Mass Casualty and Disaster Medicine

Researchers in Prince Edward Island compared the time taken to identify seven hazards in a simulated mass casualty incident in groups of paramedic students who surveyed the scene using a drone or by approaching it on foot.13 Similarly, the feasibility of using drones to facilitate information-sharing in a simulated motor vehicle accident has been studied in Norway.14

Researchers in Italy have also explored the feasibility of using drones for aerial mapping in response to a natural disaster.15


Theoretical Work

Researchers in Toronto16 and Salt Lake City17 have created models to help optimize the placement of drones in urban and rural settings with the goal of minimizing response times for delivering AEDs to bystanders who have witnessed an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

Models have also been created to explore how drones could assist in the distribution of blood products,18 complement existing medical transportation networks,19 and pick up and drop off supplies for people with chronic diseases living in rural areas.20


Regulation of Drones in Canada

Transport Canada is responsible for commercial drone operation under the Canadian Aviation Regulations.26 Canadians wishing to use a drone for non-recreational purposes must first acquire a Special Flight Operations Certificate from Transport Canada.27 In order to operate a drone beyond the visual line of sight, Canadian drone pilots must also obtain a Compliant UAV Operator Special Flight Operations Certificate.27

Since 2014, Transport Canada has provided exemptions that allow some non-recreational drones to be operated without a Special Flight Operations Certificate.1 However, these exemptions generally require the drone be flown within the visual line of sight of the operator.1 In 2018, new regulations for drone operation are expected to eliminate the distinction between recreational and non-recreational use, replacing it with a risk-based approach that depends on drone size and operating environment (for example, rural versus urban).1,28


What Does It Cost?

The costs of using and maintaining a drone or network of drones to transport medical supplies are not well-understood.29 Early research modelling potential costs has been conducted.20,30 In these studies, costs considered included initial drone purchases, the set-up of deployment centres, operation, maintenance, labour, and replacement purchases. A formal cost-effectiveness study is underway in Toronto (Dr. Timothy Chan, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON: personal communication, 2018 May 7).


Implementation Issues

Were a drone or a network of drones to be implemented and used for health care purposes in Canada, decision-makers would have to consider a number of issues including safe operation, effects on biological samples, infrastructure, training, practitioner acceptance, and privacy.


Safe Operation

Transport Canada’s regulation of drones exist largely to ensure public safety.1 Risks posed by drones include collisions with other aircraft or obstacles, crashes, and injury to bystanders retrieving items from a landed drone.1,7,14

Compared to conventional aircraft, the small size and light weight of drones makes them more vulnerable to turbulence, icing, and extreme cold, which can lead to loss of control and crashes.31


Effects on Biological Samples

How conditions such as altitude, acceleration, and temperature changes associated with flight affect biological samples must be considered and has been explored in early research, including how these samples can be best packaged for delivery.9-12


Infrastructure

One study that considered how best to implement an AED drone delivery network identified specific infrastructure considerations.17 For example, in order for a drone network to provide maximum coverage, new launch locations may need to be built; existing buildings, such paramedic or ambulance stations, could be retrofitted; or some combination of both approaches may make sense.17


Training

While exceptions can be made, it is likely the proposed drone applications in health care discussed earlier would require a Special Flight Operations Certificate or Compliant UAV Operator Special Flight Operations Certificate.1,27 Obtaining these certificates requires the operator to meet a number of skill and knowledge requirements.32


Practitioner Acceptance

Buy-in from practioners may also be necessary before deploying drones. A pilot study by researchers in the Boston area evaluated the acceptability of using drones to provide real-time support to mass critical incident commanders using qualitative interviews after a simulated incident.33 Participants were asked to consider how the technology affected the overall management of the scene, resource allocation, and patient triage.


Privacy

Using drones to deliver medical supplies or patient lab samples, or take pictures or record videos, may have implications for patient privacy if operators are not a part of the circle of care.14,29,34 Caution must be taken to prevent unauthorized access to live or recorded video, and picture or other health information contained within or transmitted by the drone.14,34 Clear ownership of data captured by drones must also be established to ensure that secondary use of the content (e.g., for research) is used ethically.14


Looking Ahead

Other proposed health care applications include military medical evacuation,35 patient transportation,36-38 locating potential drowning victims,39 delivery of portable DNA sequencing equipment for infectious diseases,40 remote detection and monitoring of vital signs,41 and mapping infectious disease areas.42

A systematic review to identify real-life and simulated applications of drones in health care is currently underway.43

Author: Jeff Mason


References

  1. Chong JS, Nicole. Civilian drone use in Canada. 2017; https://lop.parl.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2017-23-e.html?cat=science#a3. Accessed April 12, 2018.
  2. Balasingam M. Drones in medicine-the rise of the machines. Int J Clin Pract. 2017;71(9).
  3. Zipline. 2018; http://www.flyzipline.com/. Accessed April 12, 2018.
  4. Drone delivery Canada. 2018; http://www.dronedeliverycanada.com/. Accessed April 12, 2018.
  5. Matternet. 2018; http://mttr.net/. Accessed April 12, 2018.
  6. Vayu. 2018; https://www.vayu.us/. Accessed April 12, 2018.
  7. Claesson A, Fredman D, Svensson L, et al. Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in out-of-hospital-cardiac-arrest. Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med. 2016;24(1):124.
  8. Claesson A, Backman A, Ringh RNM, et al. Time to delivery of an automated external defibrillator using a drone for simulated out-of-hospital cardiac arrests vs emergency medical services. J Am Med Assoc. 2017;317(22):2332-2334.
  9. Amukele TK, Hernandez J, Snozek CLH, et al. Drone transport of chemistry and hematology samples over long distances. Am J Clin Pathol. 2017;148(5):427-435.
  10. Amukele TK, Sokoll LJ, Pepper D, Howard DP, Street J. Can unmanned aerial systems (drones) be used for the routine transport of chemistry, hematology, and coagulation laboratory specimens? PLoS One. 2015;10(7):e0134020.
  11. Amukele T, Ness PM, Tobian AAR, Boyd J, Street J. Drone transportation of blood products. Transfusion. 2017;57(3):582-588.
  12. Amukele TK, Street J, Carroll K, Miller H, Zhang SX. Drone transport of microbes in blood and sputum laboratory specimens. J Clin Microbiol. 2016;54(10):2622-2625.
  13. Jain T, Sibley A, Stryhn H, Hubloue I. Comparison of unmanned aerial vehicle technology versus standard practice in identification of hazards at a mass casualty incident scenario by primary care paramedic students. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2018:1-4.
  14. Abrahamsen HB. A remotely piloted aircraft system in major incident management: concept and pilot, feasibility study. BMC Emerg Med. 2015;15:12.
  15. Boccardo P, Chiabrando F, Dutto F, Tonolo FG, Lingua A. UAV deployment exercise for mapping purposes: evaluation of emergency response applications. Sensors (Basel, Switzerland). 2015;15(7):15717-15737.
  16. Boutilier JJ, Brooks SC, Janmohamed A, et al. Optimizing a drone network to deliver automated external defibrillators. Circulation. 2017;135(25):2454-2465.
  17. Pulver A, Wei R, Mann C. Locating AED enabled medical drones to enhance cardiac arrest response times. Prehosp Emerg Care. 2016;20(3):378-389.
  18. Wen T, Zhang Z, Wong KK. Multi-objective algorithm for blood supply via unmanned aerial vehicles to the wounded in an emergency situation. PLoS One. 2016;11(5):e0155176.
  19. Scott JES, Carlton H. Drone delivery models for healthcare. Proc Int Conf Syst Sci. 2017:3297-3304. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/622a/d97506e882bf30ba4dab9c0748ce540ecee3.pdf. Accessed April 12, 2018.
  20. Kim SJ, Lim GJ, Cho J, Cote MJ. Drone-aided healthcare services for patients with chronic diseases in rural areas. J Intell Robot Syst. 2017;88(1):163-180.
  21. CTV Ottawa. Paramedic drone giving patients in Renfrew County help from above. 2018; https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/paramedic-drone-giving-patients-in-renfrew-county-help-from-above-1.3755565. Accessed April 6, 2018.
  22. McQuigge M. First Nation in Ontario using drones to help lower costs, create jobs. 2017; https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/10/18/first-nation-in-ontario-using-drones-to-help-lower-costs-create-jobs.html. Accessed April 6, 2018.
  23. Glauser W. Blood-delivering drones saving lives in Africa and maybe soon in Canada. Can Med Assoc J. 2018;190(3):E88-e89.
  24. Bochkovsky A. Vayu drone delivers blood, stool samples from patients in remote Madagascar villages. 2016; https://www.medgadget.com/2016/08/vayu-drone-delivers-blood-stool-samples-patients-remote-madagascar-villages.html. Accessed April 12, 2018.
  25. Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a medical drone! Lancet Haematol. 2017;4(2):e56.
  26. Government of Canada. Canadian Aviation Regulations. 2017; http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-96-433/FullText.html. Accessed April 12, 2018.
  27. Transport Canada. Applying for a special flight operations certificate. 2018; https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/opssvs/applying-special-flight-operations-certificate.html. Accessed April 13, 2018.
  28. Transport Canada. Proposed rules for drones in Canada. 2018; http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/opssvs/proposed-rules-drones-canada.html. Accessed April 12, 2018.
  29. Bhatt K, Pourmand A, Sikka N. Targeted applications of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in telemedicine. Telemed J E Health. 2018.
  30. Haidari LA, Brown ST, Ferguson M, et al. The economic and operational value of using drones to transport vaccines. Vaccine. 2016;34(34):4062-4067.
  31. DeGarmo  MT. Issues concerning integration of unmanned aerial vehicles in civil airspace 2004; https://www.mitre.org/sites/default/files/pdf/04_1232.pdf. Accessed April 12, 2018.
  32. Transport Canada. TP 15263 – Knowledge requirements for pilots of unmanned air vehicle systems (UAV) 25 kg or less, operating within visual line of sight. 2017; https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/publications/page-6557.html. Accessed April 13, 2018.
  33. Hart A, Chai PR, Griswold MK, Lai JT, Boyer EW, Broach J. Acceptability and perceived utility of drone technology among emergency medical service responders and incident commanders for mass casualty incident management. Am J Disaster Med. 2017;12(4):261-265.
  34. Lin CA, Shah K, Mauntel LCC, Shah SA. Drone delivery of medications: review of the landscape and legal considerations. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2018;75(3):153-158.
  35. Handford C, Reeves F, Parker P. Prospective use of unmanned aerial vehicles for military medical evacuation in future conflicts. J R Army Med Corps. 2018.
  36. Williams M. The evolution of UAVs: the ambulance drone. 2018; https://www.herox.com/crowdsourcing-news/189-the-evolution-of-uavs-the-ambulance-drone. Accessed May 3, 2018.
  37. Lin J, Singer PW. This people-moving drone has completed more than 1,000 test flights. 2018; https://www.popsci.com/ehang-passenger-carrying-drone. Accessed May 3, 2018.
  38. Jalal AH, Umasankar Y, Christopher F, Pretto EA, Bhansali S. A model for safe transport of critical patients in unmanned drones with a ‘watch’ style continuous anesthesia sensor. J Electrochem Soc. 2018;165(8):B3071-B3077.
  39. Claesson A, Svensson L, Nordberg P, et al. Drones may be used to save lives in out of hospital cardiac arrest due to drowning. Resuscitation. 2017;114:152-156.
  40. Priye A, Wong S, Bi Y, et al. Lab-on-a-drone: toward pinpoint deployment of smartphone-enabled nucleic acid-based diagnostics for mobile health care. Anal Chem. 2016;88(9):4651-4660.
  41. Al-Naji A, Perera AG, Chahl J. Remote monitoring of cardiorespiratory signals from a hovering unmanned aerial vehicle. Biomed Eng Online. 2017;16(1):101.
  42. Fornace KM, Drakeley CJ, William T, Espino F, Cox J. Mapping infectious disease landscapes: unmanned aerial vehicles and epidemiology. Trends Parasitol. 2014;30(11):514-519.
  43. Carrillo R, Moscoso M, Taype-Rondán A, Ruiz A, Bernabe-Ortiz A. The use of unnamed aerial vehicles or drones for health purposes and clinical-related outcomes: a systematic review of experimental or simulation studies. 2017; http://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPERO/display_record.php?ID=CRD42017072194. Accessed March 21, 2018.

 


Mini-Roundup: Recent Reports From CADTH and Other Agencies


CADTH Resources on Rural and Remote Health Care


CADTH Horizon Scan Roundup 2017


Recent Horizon Scanning Reports From Other Agencies


Agencies Included in the Mini-Roundup That Follows:


Endocrine, Nutrition, and Metabolic


Infectious Disease and Infection Control


Palliative and Long-Term Care


Other



Strategic Initiatives

 


About This Document

Disclaimer: The information in this document is intended to help Canadian health care decision-makers, health care professionals, health systems leaders, and policymakers make well-informed decisions and thereby improve the quality of health care services. While patients and others may access this document, the document is made available for informational purposes only and no representations or warranties are made with respect to its fitness for any particular purpose. The information in this document should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice or as a substitute for the application of clinical judgment in respect of the care of a particular patient or other professional judgment in any decision-making process. The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) does not endorse any information, drugs, therapies, treatments, products, processes, or services.

While care has been taken to ensure that the information prepared by CADTH in this document is accurate, complete, and up-to-date as at the applicable date the material was first published by CADTH, CADTH does not make any guarantees to that effect. CADTH does not guarantee and is not responsible for the quality, currency, propriety, accuracy, or reasonableness of any statements, information, or conclusions contained in any third-party materials used in preparing this document. The views and opinions of third parties published in this document do not necessarily state or reflect those of CADTH.

CADTH is not responsible for any errors, omissions, injury, loss, or damage arising from or relating to the use (or misuse) of any information, statements, or conclusions contained in or implied by the contents of this document or any of the source materials.

This document may contain links to third-party websites. CADTH does not have control over the content of such sites. Use of third-party sites is governed by the third-party website owners’ own terms and conditions set out for such sites. CADTH does not make any guarantee with respect to any information contained on such third-party sites and CADTH is not responsible for any injury, loss, or damage suffered as a result of using such third-party sites. CADTH has no responsibility for the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information by third-party sites.

Subject to the aforementioned limitations, the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of Health Canada, Canada’s provincial or territorial governments, other CADTH funders, or any third-party supplier of information.

This document is prepared and intended for use in the context of the Canadian health care system. The use of this document outside of Canada is done so at the user’s own risk.

This disclaimer and any questions or matters of any nature arising from or relating to the content or use (or misuse) of this document will be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the Province of Ontario and the laws of Canada applicable therein, and all proceedings shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of the Province of Ontario, Canada.

The copyright and other intellectual property rights in this document are owned by CADTH and its licensors. These rights are protected by the Canadian Copyright Act and other national and international laws and agreements. Users are permitted to make copies of this document for non-commercial purposes only, provided it is not modified when reproduced and appropriate credit is given to CADTH and its licensors.

About CADTH: CADTH is an independent, not-for-profit organization responsible for providing Canada’s health care decision-makers with objective evidence to help make informed decisions about the optimal use of drugs, medical devices, diagnostics, and procedures in our health care system.

Funding: CADTH receives funding from Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial governments, with the exception of Quebec.

Contact requests@cadth.ca with inquiries about this notice or legal matters relating to CADTH services.

ISSN: 1715-555X