Imagine having a doctor’s appointment from anywhere – your home, your office, or even on a paddleboard. Sometimes appointments don’t require an in-person visit and giving patients the ability to see their health care provider from anywhere is a huge benefit.
Many health clinics and specialists are located in Vancouver and Victoria, and for patients living outside the Lower Mainland, especially in remote areas of the province, having to travel to Vancouver or Victoria often means long travel days at significant expense.
For Jennifer, a Virtual Health patient living in Black Creek, B.C., visits to the nearest cancer centre in Victoria are a four-hour drive, each way. “When I realized that I would have to go down (to Victoria) every two weeks for appointments, it did not seem feasible,” said Jennifer.
That’s where Virtual Health comes in. Patients can connect with their doctor, nurse, social worker or other provider from anywhere using secure video or text; they can receive treatment online, and have their health monitored remotely. PHSA’s Office of Virtual Health is working collaboratively with our clinicians to bring health care closer to home for patients and their families so they can save travel time, effort and money.
Judy is a Virtual Health patient living on Salt Spring Island. Traveling to Victoria on the ferry and back can take up a whole day. With Virtual Health, “Dr. Sulpher and I can talk and it takes maybe half an hour,” said Judy.
The benefits of Virtual Health also extend to care providers. Dr. Jeffrey Sulpher, Medical Oncologist at BC Cancer-Victoria, says Virtual Health Visits keep him very organized. “I can stay in one place, I have all my charts, and I can keep patients on time.”
What is the Office of Virtual Health?
The Office of Virtual Health leads and provides strategic direction for the overall Virtual Health initiative across PHSA.
Once clinicians identify the clinical need for Virtual Health in their programs, the Office of Virtual Health team works with them to provide direction and support, including change management, project management, staff and patient education and evaluation.
Before Virtual Health is offered to the public:
- All technical solutions undergo extensive testing to make sure they fit the needs of patients and clinicians.
- The solutions must have a level of privacy and security that meets with B.C.’s regulatory requirements.
Input from patients is essential to choosing and testing solutions. Feedback from patients like Jennifer and Judy help us continuously learn and improve on our Virtual Health services.
Virtual Health priorities we are working on:
- Anywhere-to-anywhere Virtual Health Visits: Patients and their health care providers can connect via secure audio, video and chat from anywhere. It includes Video Remote Interpretation for patients with language barriers. We are working on test projects with several PHSA clinical programs.
- Clinical Digital Messaging: Messaging between patients and providers such as text, email, instant messaging, voice to text. We're working on a test project with BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services.
- Remote Patient Monitoring: Monitor patients from any location using connected or unconnected devices, such as wearables or glucometers. We're working on test projects with BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre's Diabetes in Pregnancy Service, as well as BC Emergency Health Services and its Community Paramedicine Home Health Monitoring program.
- Online Treatment and Resources: Patients can receive treatment in groups or individually using an app that provides self-directed learning and methods to connect with a provider. We're working on a test project with BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services.
November 11 to 17 is Digital Health Week in Canada and we’re recognizing the importance of how virtual health is transforming the delivery of care across Canada! Watch our patient video and chime in on social media at the hashtags #OfficeofVirtualHealth and #ThinkDigitalHealth.
Visit the Office of Virtual Health webpage to learn more about Virtual Health.