KO Telemedicine’s journey to KO eHealth

For many years, First Nations communities in Ontario faced significant challenges in accessing adequate healthcare services. The vast geographic landscape and isolation of the communities in the remote north presented barriers to receiving timely and quality care. This issue was further compounded by the lack of culturally safe and competent healthcare options, resulting in inequitable health outcomes for Indigenous people.

However, since 2001, a solution has been steadily evolving – the development of First Nations Telehealth/Telemedicine in Ontario. This innovative approach to healthcare delivery has demonstrated the power of collaboration and technology in meeting the health needs of these communities without the unnecessary duplication of services or the creation of parallel healthcare systems.

At the heart of this model is the strong relationship between member First Nations, KO eHealth, the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC), and First Nations and Inuit Health (FNIH). This partnership has facilitated the growth and success of the Telehealth/Telemedicine service offered by KO eHealth, resulting in the establishment and maintenance of a high-quality and cost-effective healthcare option for Ontario’s most isolated communities.

This service model is rooted in the specific requirements and priorities of First Nations communities, with community leadership playing a vital role in its direction. This approach has led to a significant improvement in healthcare outcomes, with increased access to a wider range of health, social, and economic development services. It has also paved the way for First Nations to develop complementary health initiatives, such as clinical information systems, which can aid in population health and pandemic planning.

What sets First Nations Telehealth/Telemedicine in Ontario apart from previous health policies and programs is its focus on community-based choice of health service providers and increased frequency and proximity of health service access. This approach recognizes the unique cultural and geographical needs of First Nations and has demonstrated how culturally safe and competent healthcare can be delivered across large and diverse territories.

Not only has this model greatly improved health outcomes for First Nations populations in Ontario, but it has also empowered communities by building and strengthening their capacities. Additionally, it has provided healthcare workers with the necessary resources to effectively do their jobs, resulting in a more sustainable and equitable healthcare system for all.

In conclusion, the development of First Nations Telehealth/Telemedicine in Ontario has been a game-changer for remote and isolated communities. Through collaboration, technology, and a focus on community-driven healthcare, this model has effectively addressed long-standing gaps in healthcare access and improved overall health outcomes for Indigenous populations. It serves as a shining example of how innovation and a culturally sensitive approach can bring about positive change in the healthcare system.


KO TELEMEDICINE – A Brief History


1998 – Federal investments in Telehealth/Telemedicine for First Nations were indentified leading to the development of a number of pilot projects in 1998.

2000 – Health Canada announces funding to support a regional Telehealth/Telemedicine consultation in Northwestern Ontario with the involvement of Keewaytinook Okimakanak (Northern Chiefs Council).

2001 – Keewaytinook Okimakanak enters into an agreement with the NORTH Network to develop and document a service model for a rural and remote First Nations.

2002 – KO Telemedicine is established by Keewaytinook Okimakanak servicing the communities of Deer Lake, Fort Severn, Keewaywin, North Spirit Lake and Poplar Hill First Nations with technical support provided by Kuh-ke-nah Broadband Network (K-Net).

2003 – KO Telemedicine expansion project began, subsequently adding 21 communities to the network by 2007.

2006 – The M├ętis Nation of Ontario (MNO) joined KO Telemedicine providing its own funding for equipment, training and operation resources, including scheduling staff.

2006 – KO Telemedicine receives two awards from the Canadian Society of Telehealth.

2008 – KO Telemedicine surpasses 10,000 events.