The Canadian Patient Safety Institute and the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement recently amalgamated. CEO of CPSI Chris Power retired, and CFHI CEO Jennifer Zelmer was named President and CEO for the newly amalgamated organization. In this monthly blog, Jennifer shares her thoughts about this month’s Digital Magazine topic.
My first experience of virtual care was when I was living in Denmark.
I had an eye infection and days after a visit to my ophthalmologist, my symptoms hadn't resolved. When I called her office to follow-up, I learned that she was away for several weeks so I sent a secure email to my GP asking if he could help. Less than an hour later, the reply came in. Don't worry, he said. He had looked up the medication that I had received in my electronic record and seen the lab results from a swab that my ophthalmologist had done. My GP told me that he had now prescribed a different antibiotic based on those results. No need to come to his office, he said, I could go directly to the pharmacy of my choice to have the prescription filled.
Getting care without having to go to the clinic while my vision was blurry was priceless, as was being able to take my time to translate my GP's message to make sure that I understood it fully.
Of course, today, in the middle of a pandemic, virtual care isn't just a nice-to-have option. That said, as it was for me when I had my eye infection, it is new for many patients and healthcare providers.
In the past few months, more than half of Canadian adults who needed advice from a doctor connected with them by phone, video, or other types of virtual care. (source) Going forward, more than a third of us would choose virtual care as the first way we seek a doctor's advice.
So virtual care is here to stay. But how do we make sure it is safe? Can we improve on what we have?
Virtual care can improve timely access to care, quality and safety, and healthcare costs, but these benefits are neither automatic nor guaranteed. And the ways that it is designed and used can improve or threaten equity.
Thinking safety, here are some practical ideas to think about:
- While virtual care might be new, asking someone to join you for a healthcare visit shouldn't be and may be easier when visits are virtual.
- Whether it's a phone call, videoconference, or email, remember that you are allowed, and encouraged, to ask questions about your care. Patients who take an active role in their care tend to see greater improvements in their health.
- Finally, continuity of care is important. If possible, connect with your regular providers. If not, ensure that any new information is communicated to your circle of care.
You can find more tips on navigating virtual care at ConquerSilence.ca. While you're there, sign up for Canadian Patient Safety Week and our team will tell you when the new series of PATIENT podcasts is released. Each episode will feature a different discussion about patient experiences with virtual care.
What does safe, ideal virtual care look like for you? Let's continue to learn together.
Take care, be well, and stay safe,