What happens when you need to consult with your health care provider – but don’t feel well enough to leave your home?
For a patient registered in the BC Women’s Hospital Complex Chronic Diseases Program, the appointment continued as planned thanks to the live video call aspect of virtual health, known as virtual visits. “I was in bed, in my pyjamas, and still able to have a consultation! That’s awesome.”
As a patient-centred care model, virtual health focuses on connecting patients and health care providers – using technology – to optimize wellness and outcomes. Virtual visits enable patients and providers to see each other in real time by using various technologies, such as mobile phones, tablets or computer web cams.
The Complex Chronic Diseases Program
is the only provincial program that provides care for people who live with the following complex chronic diseases: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and symptoms attributed to Chronic Lyme Disease.
Given the nature of their illnesses, the program recognized the need for patients to stay in their preferred location and link directly with their health care provider without traveling for appointments that don’t require a physical presence. Many people living with chronic conditions live outside the Lower Mainland, and it is difficult to access care in rural and remote areas.
The Complex Chronic Diseases Program recently conducted a focus group in which patients confirmed the need for timely access to care, and the need for virtual health to be offered and integrated within their health care.
That’s where PHSA’s Office of Virtual Health comes in. Office of Virtual Health provides project management, resources and tools to clinical and academic programs to support them with integrating virtual health into their care models. The Complex Chronic Diseases Program partnered with Office of Virtual Health as the first project within PHSA to bring specialized care to patients in their home.
So far virtual health has been well received. Since the roll-out in February 2018, 83 per cent of participants said virtual health is a good alternative to in-person visits, and some said they are even better than in-person visits. The average experience rating score was 8 on a scale of 0 to 10 (10 being excellent); 50 per cent gave a rating of 9 or above. All patients would recommend virtual health to other patients. Adds the patient, “It saved me a long journey and an overnight stay in Vancouver, which is expensive and utterly exhausting.”
Health care providers at the Complex Chronic Disease Program appreciate the value of virtual visits in large part because they can see the patient in real time. “A major benefit to staff is that we’re able to see a patient’s demeanour, their emotional fluxes, and make assessments not possible with telephone consults,” said one provider.