November 29 - December 5 is Digital Health Week – a time to recognize the advancements and achievements of virtual care and tools. This recognition is particularly important as we reflect on the past 19 months and the significant dependence on virtual tools and options while we work to maintain quality and accessible patient care throughout our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Digital Health staff across the province have worked tirelessly to support our health system’s response to COVID-19,” said Doug Snell, Interim Provincial Lead and Chief Information Officer, Digital Health at Shared Health. “Through secure online solutions, patients are now able to access care virtually, view their COVID-19 test results and immunization records online, and use virtual follow up to recover in the comfort of home without the risk of exposure. These are significant enhancements and milestones in digital health for our province and open the door for many more opportunities in the future.”
Advancements in digital health align with Shared Health’s commitment to improving care and achieving more access, shorter waits and better health outcomes as outlined in Manitoba’s first Clinical and Preventive Services Plan (CPSP).
“Throughout the pandemic, the response from patients about virtual care has been really positive. I constantly hear patients say how valuable it is, how they didn’t need to travel, pay for parking, or wait in a waiting room,” said Dr. Jose Francois, Shared Health’s provincial medical specialty lead of family medicine and a practicing family physician in rural Manitoba.
Dr. Francois also served as co-chair of the Primary and Community Care Provincial Clinical Team, contributing his knowledge and 22 years of experience with patients to the plan that outlines outline new approaches to care to improve access, equity, and quality of health services for all Manitobans – like expanded virtual options.
“The COVID-19 testing and immunization portals have been excellent in terms of giving patients more self-serve access to their health information, in a way that still retains all the security of their personal health information. These are things that are in place in other jurisdictions that we identified as being really important parts of the Clinical and Preventive Services Plan that will be really valuable to Manitobans.”
Within the CPSP, virtual care is identified as a means to support Manitobans in accessing health services sooner, which has been accelerated during the pandemic. Virtual care has allowed patients to continue their care plans at home while reducing possible exposure and travel time.
“With the addition of technology, it’s possible to do virtual appointments from anywhere – and that convenience factor is important not only because it makes accessing care easier but also because it can add a level of comfort when you are able to take an appointment from your own home, particularly for some areas of care, like mental health,” added Francois
Virtual care continues to transform health services. Its benefits transcend convenience and efficiency. It improves access to primary and specialized services that may otherwise require travel or complex navigation to access, while also supporting important patient diagnoses and treatment plans with faster provider to provider consults.
Dr. Ken Kasper, lead of the Virtual COVID Outpatient Program, provides virtual support to mild to moderately ill COVID patients allowing them to recover safely in the comforts of home.