Keys to Maintaining Virtual Care’s Momentum

The largest Health IT event in Canada – the eHealth Conference – had to move online this year due to COVID-19. It would have been held in lovely Vancouver, but instead the eHealth Virtual Pop-Up event is happening next week, July 20-21st. The conference is hosted by Canada Health Infoway , the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Digital Health Canada .
As an added element of the conference, Canada Health Infoway and @DrRBhyat will be hosting next week’s HCLDR chat. They will be leading us in a topic that is very relevant right now – virtual care (aka #telehealth).
Please join them Tuesday, July 21 at 8:30 p.m. ET (for your local time click here )
By Dr. Rashaad Bhyat ( @DrRBhyat )
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 10 to 20 per cent of health care visits in Canada were conducted virtually. That number is now about 60 per cent, according to statistics tracked by Canada Health Infoway (Infoway). [1] My clinic group is currently “seeing” most of our patients through phone appointments, alongside some additional “visits” conducted through video chat.
Virtual care has allowed Canadians to continue to access health care while maintaining physical distancing. The uptake has been rapid, but we need to make sure that it’s sustained beyond the pandemic. Four key policy themes can help ensure that virtual care remains part of Canada’s “new normal.”
Clinical and Political Leadership
Already, clinical groups and the jurisdictions (provinces and territories) have shown remarkable leadership and collaboration in implementing virtual care. This work must continue. Individuals and organizations such as hospitals, clinical and industry groups and associations can work with jurisdictional leaders to influence policy at provincial, territorial and national levels.
Patient Advocacy
Individual patients and patient organizations can provide significant support for furthering virtual care services. According to a recent analysis by Infoway, the majority of patients report feeling satisfied after experiencing a virtual care visit. [2] From a clinical perspective, I appreciate that virtual care helps me maintain a connection with my patients, whether hearing a voice on the phone or seeing a face on video.
Infoway’s 2018 and 2019 surveys of Canadians found that patients with access to their personal health information report feeling more confident and involved in managing their health care. The benefits of modernized access to health care will last far beyond COVID-19, and it is critical that patients bring their experiences to the table.
Support for Clinicians Using Modern Tools to Benefit Patients
Clinicians are making do with pre-existing resources: primarily the telephone, along with a host of video visit apps and digital work-arounds.  While these stopgaps are sufficient to weather an acute crisis, our...