At 415,000 square miles, the Canadian province of Ontario is larger than any of the United States except Alaska. Yet it has a population that is only a bit larger than that of Pennsylvania (at just 46,000 square miles). These two numbers alone make it clear that Ontario faces some special healthcare challenges in terms of delivering services to its residents spread across great distances.

This is part of the motivation behind the provincial government’s new initiatives for digital health projects. The government as assigned more than $5 million across 15 projects. For example, one project will provide real-time glucose monitoring of diabetes patients in remote regions. Another program will provide mobile health platform services to connect patients and family members with healthcare workers. Vital signs of patients who have undergone cardiac or vascular surgery will be monitored continuously, both in the hospital and after discharge, to track their recover and detect post-surgical complications before they become life threatening. There’s even a project that will detect and diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, aphasia, and Parkinson’s disease using speech samples captured by a tablet application.

These and other telehealth programs will be evaluated over the next two years to determine their effectiveness, and to evaluate their scalability for adoption on a wider basis throughout the province. These programs have the potential to improve healthcare outcomes while lowering overall costs.