July 29, 2020 – The people of B.C. will have continued access to virtual health care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with support from Canada Health Infoway (Infoway), which is providing $3.3 million to the province, to be split between Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) and the B.C. Ministry of Health.
Virtual visits will enable citizens to access physicians and other health care providers safely from home, reducing exposure to COVID-19 for patients, physicians, clinic staff and their families. The program will help health care providers set up video and audio visits with their patients.
This funding to PHSA and the Ministry of Health will support the use of specialized platforms for virtual health visits, enabling patients to connect with their care team from anywhere using any available internet connection. The platforms are endorsed by PHSA and the Ministry of Health, provide greater privacy and security to users and are compliant with Canadian data protection regulations. The funding from Infoway will also support continued use of remote patient monitoring, enabling vulnerable patients with chronic conditions, or with COVID-19, to use technology that monitors their health and sends the information to their care team electronically while they remain at home.
Digital and virtual health resources are valuable for patients living in rural and remote locations who would otherwise need to travel long distances for in-person appointments. During the COVID-19 pandemic, digital and virtual health tools have been an essential means of safely delivering care throughout the province. Prior to COVID-19, there was an average of 1,800 virtual health visits across B.C. each week. By mid-June the number of visits grew to more than 19,000 a week.
“Sharing an urgent and common goal of still serving patients in the context of the new challenges of COVID-19, we have collaborated with our health authority partners, the Ministry of Health and Doctors of BC to identify and deliver tools that have been embraced and used widely across the province,” said Benoit Morin, president & CEO, PHSA. “This funding from Infoway means British Columbia can maintain the momentum and continue using digital and virtual health tools in response to the immediate needs of our health services and into the future.”
“Infoway is pleased to support these vital virtual health services for the citizens of B.C.,” said Michael Green, president and CEO, Infoway. “Virtual care is a safe and effective way to deliver care that can reduce pressures on our health system, save time and money for Canadians, and reduce carbon emissions. Virtual care is not intended to replace all in-person appointments, but it is a highly effective and complementary delivery model, now and for the future.”
Deploying virtual health tools to health authorities across the province is coordinated by the PHSA Office of Virtual Health, in alignment with the British Columbia Ministry of Health and regional health authority virtual health teams.