Skip to main content

New ultrasound technology offers rural Sask. mothers access to virtual care


A new research initiative from Jim Pattison’s Hospital (JPH) is making access to ultrasound appointments easier for expectant mothers in rural parts of the province.

The MELODY Telerobotic Ultrasound System is the largest telerobotic ultrasound program in the world, a news release from JPH said.

Dr. Ivar Mendez, director of the virtual care and remote presence robotics program, says the research initiative will bring essential services to remote and rural areas.

Mendez says for mothers living in areas where ultrasound technology isn’t available the MELODY system allows a sonographer to manipulate a probe and remotely perform an ultrasound to patients without having to travel long distances.

“For me, the amazing thing is that an individual can move a probe in Saskatoon and the probe will actually move 600 kilometers away in another community in real time,” Mendes said on Thursday.

The technology has been installed in Gravelbourg, La Loche, Stony Rapids and Pelican Narrows and has provided over 300 ultrasound scans, 80 per cent of them being obstetrical ultrasounds.

“A mother doesn’t have to travel eight hours to Saskatoon, be in a hotel, waiting for an ultrasound,” Mendez said.

Leaving a rural community for an ultrasound appointment can often mean patients have to take time off of work, find childcare for their other children and costly travel.

“There are significant barriers there, so by and large people are so thankful they can have it done in their community,” said Nadine Kanigan, director at The Ultrasound Centre in Saskatoon.

The telerobotic system has some limitations as it does require an internet connection.

“Obviously there’s limitations because I have to tell someone how to make some of the bigger movements with the ultrasound camera. Where if I was in the room with a patient, I would just be doing that on my own.”

The technology is only available in four locations right now, but the hospital does plan to expand to other communities in the province down the road. Top Stories

Stay Connected