Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 January 2005
The implementation committee of the Quebec Child Telehealth Network was formed in 1997, with a mandate to build a network dedicated to the diagnosis of congenital cardiac disease via telemedicine. We devised criterions for selection to determine which peripheral centres would be linked by telemedicine to the university-based services for paediatric cardiology provided in the Canadian Province of Quebec. The criterions included: distance from a university centre, number of births per year, and presence of an already-established outreach clinic for paediatric cardiology. The Quebec Network became operational in 2000, and was composed of 32 peripheral centres and 4 university centres. A total of 363 transmissions of echocardiograms occurred over a 3-year period from January 2000 to December 2002. Peripheral centres located at a distance greater than 100 kilometres from a university centre were 8.5 times more likely to use the network. Criterions other than distance did not influence whether or not a peripheral centre used the network. Cardiac abnormalities were identified in almost two-thirds of the transmissions. The use of the Quebec Network resulted in the avoidance of transfers or clinic visits to university hospitals in seven-tenths of cases. We conclude that distance greater than 100 kilometres from a centre offering subspecialty services in paediatric cardiology is the most important criterion for choosing the peripheral centres that are most likely to use a telehealth network. In its first three years of operation, the telehealth network had a major impact on the delivery of paediatric cardiac care, improving access to subspecialty services across the province.