Interior Health has greatly increased the virtual availability of physicians through the pandemic. (Unsplash)

Interior Health has greatly increased the virtual availability of physicians through the pandemic. (Unsplash)

Virtual care has expanded significantly amid the pandemic in Interior Health

‘This crisis has forced us to change how we deliver health care more in 20 days than we had in 20 years’

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit B.C. in early 2020, health service providers had to quickly shift gears.

During a Dec. 9 virtual board meeting, Interior Health (IH) officials said they managed to implement three years of planning in a matter of months.

One clinician told IH, “This crisis has forced us to change how we deliver health care more in 20 days than we had in 20 years.”

The health authority had virtual care up and running for physicians a week after the province declared a public health emergency on March 17 and had expanded it to all clinical users within a month. Before the pandemic, and suggestions of social distancing by health officials, IH’s virtual care appointments were around 800 per month. By May, the health authority reached its peak, conducting 6,272 appointments within a month over Zoom — an online video-conferencing application.

“We increased our virtual visit activity by at least an order of magnitude,” said David Sookaveiff, IH’s corporate director of clinical informatics, in a presentation to the board of directors.

That number decreased as health restrictions eased through the summer, but shot back up as cases did through the fall. In November, virtual appointments again neared the 6,000-mark.

By far the greatest use came from mental health and substance use patients, who booked nearly 20,000 appointments since IH expanded its virtual care efforts.

READ MORE: 81 new COVID-19 infections in Interior Health

READ MORE: Interior Health ready and waiting for vaccine to arrive

According to the health authority, patient feedback showed that people had largely good experiences with the virtual appointments over Zoom, with 48 per cent saying their experience was very good and 37 per cent saying they had a good experience. A total of 10 per cent said their experience was fair, four per cent said poor and just one per cent said very poor.

The poor ratings, according to IH’s chief information officer Norma Janssen, were largely the result of internet connection issues.

The health authority also connected patients in long-term care, mental health and hospital facilities with physicians and family members by using iPads. The health authority shared some patient feedback with that process.

“Putting my hand to the iPad after six months of not seeing my wife of 50 years in a long-term care facility was the greatest joy I have ever felt since the day I married her,” one patient said.

“It brought real tears of joy and a spark to her wanting to live longer, and improve her quality (of life) at least for that moment. I want to give thanks to that nurse and staff for that moment, and hope others get a chance to have that with their loved ones.”

Interior Health plans to continue to grow its virtual care and in-home patient experiences, with new technologies, more education and improvements to the overall experience.

“That is not something we had prior to COVID,” said Sookaveiff.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson told city council Tuesday, Jan. 19, there have been no further cases of COVID-19 amongst the staff at Cariboo Memorial Hospital than the 10 nurses and two doctors who are off work.  (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA expects health authority to declare COVID-19 cluster for region

Lorne Doerkson updates Williams Lake city council at committee of the whole meeting

(Tribune file photo)
Marie Sharpe and Nesika elementary latest schools to have COVID-19 exposures

School District 27 superintendent acknowledges hard work of Interior Health staff

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb gives a COVID-19 update through a Facebook post Tuesday, Jan. 19. (Facebook image)
Williams Lake mayor urges residents to follow protocols as city awaits COVID-19 numbers

Isolation ‘means not leaving your home or other accommodations’: Mayor Walt Cobb

Williams Lake is beginning to freeze over and with temperatures expected to remain below zero beginning Tuesday evening the ice may get thick enough for residents to recreate. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake could freeze enough for outdoor recreation activities

Overnight lows anticipated to dip below -13C beginning Wednesday

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

A new video from NCCIH and BC Northern Health titled ‘Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19’ was animated by Joanne Gervais. (Photo Provided By: NCCIH Archives)
VIDEO: Stigma against Indigenous people is a ‘social sickness’

A new short animated video is aiming to educate the public on the stigmatization

Most Read