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Virtual care popular at BC Children’s Hospital, plans underway to continue post-pandemic

Click to play video: 'Virtual care visits a big hit with B.C. Children’s Hospital patients and families' Virtual care visits a big hit with B.C. Children’s Hospital patients and families
A new survey of B.C. Children's Hospital patients and their families has found very positive feedback to the online care visit program. Kylie Stantorn reports – May 11, 2021

A new survey has found strong support for virtual care at BC Children’s Hospital, with patients and their families saying it is the same, or even better, than in-person visits.

The survey went on to say families hope the new emphasis on virtual care will continue even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Seventy-nine per cent of patients and their families reported an overall positive experience with virtual care, the survey found, and 92 per cent said they would recommend virtual care to others.

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Hospital officials note the rise in online visits has led to shorter waitlists while the survey found 73 per cent of patients rated virtual care “as the same or better than in-person care.”

Read more: COMMENTARY: Virtual care will continue long after COVID-19 pandemic ends

Brenden Hursh, a pediatric endocrinologist at BC Children’s Hospital who led a study on how well remote-virtual visits were working for families of children with diabetes, said just five per cent of visits to the hospital’s endocrine division were virtual prior to the pandemic. The pandemic forced them to transition entirely to virtual visits.

“We found extremely positive opinions from the families around their virtual health visits across multiple domains of usability,” he said.

The study found 72 per cent of patients surveyed want continued virtual care, even after the pandemic.

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Hursh said the transition debunked a lot of long-held myths about the types of families that would favour virtual health.

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“It was easy before the pandemic to assume that virtual health would only be for the tech-savvy families or maybe for those families who live very far away from our major centres in British Columbia,” he said.

“Instead, what we found is really broad support for virtual health across a really diverse group of families in British Columbia.”

Sixty per cent of patients live outside of the Vancouver Coastal Health region, and virtual visits can help those families avoid the logistics of travel, the survey found.

Plans are being developed for the future of virtual care, hospital officials said.

The hospital noted that while there has been a rise in virtual appointments, in-person care remains safe for patients and their families.

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