“Virtual health is really about using technologies to support health. How can we do what we do today better using technology. And how can we deliver care that historically has been impossible,” says Dr. Kendall Ho, Research Lead, Emergency Digital Medicine. “There are several ways a patient can clearly benefit – if they can see their own health information, if they can do their own scheduling with clinics, it can improve their communication with our services.”
Improving access, especially for those who have challenges leaving home, can have a profound positive impact on a patient’s quality of life as it allows for them to be able to still access vital health care services despite their difficulties.
“COVID-19 has been a defining moment for digital health,” says Dr. Ho. “I don’t think we’ll ever go back to not using digital health again.”
Improved patient care, no matter the distance
Nick Kanaan, who has suffered from cystic fibrosis all his life, is taking immunosuppressants to help his newly transplanted lungs successfully acclimate to his body. In doing so, his body is left more vulnerable to diseases such as COVID-19.
Virtual health has empowered Nick to be able to manage his health at home and conduct health care visits online.
“I use a health application on my phone and this measures blood pressure, pulse, temperature, blood sugars, and we’re given a very specific range we need to be within,” says Nick. “It’s very reassuring, and all of that data is shared during our meetings with our health care providers.”
Technology has helped Nick stay safe while maintaining his health. And Dr. Ho and his team have worked hard to ensure patients at VGH are safe, too.
Dr. Ho and his team launched a new app that keeps patients in need of emergency health services safe. This app allows patients to remain safely outside the hospital and be notified with detailed information on when they are to be seen, where they need to go and who will be caring for them.
Personalizing health care
Virtual health is also reaching to expand a person’s understanding of their own health through long-term research.
“A person, usually when they are sick, will go in to visit their doctor or go to the hospital, but that’s only about one to five per cent of their lives,” says Dr. Ho. “For the rest of their lives, we really don’t have that data.”
Virtual data can help the patient and health care provider understand what a patient’s health profile looks like when they are healthy, compared to when they are sick. This information can help inform a personalized care plan.
Building the future, together
Patient input has been key in developing these technologies and helping to ensure that these tools are both useful and easily understood.
Donor support has also been vital to launching new initiatives.
“Without philanthropic support, I wouldn’t have the experience I have to ensure we can fulfill our mission to serve our patients better,” says Dr. Ho.