Technology-enabled care connects patients and their healthcare providers
Women’s College Hospital recently launched Women’s Virtual—the hospital’s new strategy for using digital health tools to improve access to care and enhance the patient experience. Dr. Danielle Martin, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Executive, believes that virtual care can help solve some of the challenges that patients and the health system are facing. “Technology has changed the way we bank, shop and communicate with our friends and family. The next step is using it to change the way our healthcare is delivered,” says Dr. Martin. “Virtual care can give people living in remote communities better access to care, it can let patients speak with their physicians in real-time without having to wait for their next appointment and it can allow people to have their health information at their finger tips when they need it—and that’s just the beginning.”
Here’s what you need to know about Women’s Virtual:
Virtual care defined.
“I would define virtual care as any kind of interaction between patients and members of their healthcare team that occurs remotely,” says Dr. Trevor Jamieson, Medical Director for Women’s Virtual. That might include email, secure text messaging, phone calls, remote monitoring or face-to-face video appointments—basically any form of care where the patient and the provider are not physically in the same room.
Information when and where patients need it.
Virtual care offers information and follow-up care to patients when and where they need it. Patients sometimes wait months for appointments with busy specialists. When the day finally arrives, they often have to book time off work or travel great distances. “For patients who live far from their hospitals or are shift workers, this can be a real barrier,” says Laura Pus, Administrative Director for Women’s Virtual. “By using technology, in-person visits at the hospital can be replaced with a video appointment or it could also mean reimagining the interaction all-together.” For example, with virtual care, patients can attend a support group online or have their vital signs monitored from the comfort of their own home using a digital app.
Enhancing the virtual ward.
One of the goals of virtual care is to improve care for patients at high risk for hospital readmission. “Often these patients have a team of clinicians overseeing their care, from their family physician and specialists to those providing home care services,” says Dr. Jamieson. “The virtual ward uses technology to allow continuous communication between the whole care team to ensure a cohesive continuum of care that aligns with the patient’s needs.”
So will hospital visits soon be a thing of the past?
The goal of virtual care is not to eliminate in-person hospital visits. “I don’t see that ever happening,” says Dr. Jamieson. “Instead, virtual care aims to enhance existing programs and give patients more access to help and support when they need it, eliminating unnecessary hospital and emergency room visits.”
Many applications for virtual care.
Here are a few ways Women’s College Hospital is already delivering virtual care: