COVID-19 has brought about countless changes to our world. The impact of this pandemic has been felt in nearly every sector – especially the health sector. We’ve had to rethink the necessity of in-person interactions, including meetings among hospital staff, visitors within our hospitals, and some patient appointments – leading to an increased need for virtual care.
Virtual care is a broad term that encompasses all the ways health care providers remotely interact with their patients. In addition to treating patients via telemedicine, providers may use live video, audio, instant messaging or other digital tools to communicate with their patients remotely. Virtual care also encompasses all the ways health care providers remotely interact with each other regarding their patients, for example case conferences.
While some of these changes have been challenging, others have been inspiring.
“We’ve been rushing to implement virtual care because of COVID but we also want to work with regional partners to make sure we can always offer some forms of virtual care, even once COVID is no longer a concern,” said Barry Hillier, QHC’s Director of Information Services and Knowledge Management. “Many patients prefer virtual care because it can be more efficient, and there are fewer risks and fewer costs if they don’t need to leave their homes. So, wherever appropriate, we want to offer virtual care opportunities in all of our programs.”
Both QHC’s Outpatient Mental Health and Children’s Treatment Centre programs have moved to virtual care for many patient appointments during the pandemic. “In surveying our staff, we’re seeing great benefits,” said Margo Russell-Bird, Manager of the Quinte Children’s Treatment Centre. “For our Speech and Language program, we’re seeing fewer no-shows for appointments and it’s been great for parent engagement. It’s been very positive.”
QHC’s Virtual Care Committee has many new projects and pilots underway that will help to enhance patient care. Here is a snapshot of some of the work being done: