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

Just Posted

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

The Eyes of the Tigers on the 2021 Beer Run on June 19. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Beer Runners take trip around local beaches and brews

Over 160 people signed up to come back after the 2020 run was cancelled

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

JAK's Liquor Store in Penticton will be donating 10 per cent of its sales on Saturday, June 19, to the Penticton Salvation Army Food Bank. (Photo from JAKS.com)
Stock up your liquor cabinet and support the Penticton food bank

Jak’s beer and wine store is donating a portion of sales to local food banks Saturday

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control in Electoral Area D starting next year

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read