How Virtual Care Paves the Way for Cancer Patients to Distant Specialists in Canada

Marina Astapchik
Digital Content Manager
January 24, 2020

Among the key recommendations on the findings of the World Health Organization’s report 2019 is to invest in data systems for health, including disaggregated data. The report indicates the need to prompt provision of updated data and recent medical research to remote regions, since good quality data facilitate healthcare and allow timely interventions with a better allocation of resources: “Routine information systems, health facility or household surveys, and civil registration and vital statistics systems must be designed to provide relevant, timely and accurate data.”

Along with this data, cancer is considered to be the leading cause of death in the world, and is responsible for an estimated 9,6 million fatal outcomes in 2018, among which 70% of deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, reflecting the global demand for the transformation of digital healthcare services through technological innovation.

Virtual Care Platform as the Right Solution for Cancer Treatment

To analyze the general features of the virtual care platform, let’s look at the future of cancer treatment using the OTN virtual care solutions as an example. The Ontario Telemedicine Network is an independent, nonprofit organization founded by the government of Ontario, Canada, which is accelerating the development of virtual care solutions by researching the following technologies in healthcare delivery:

  • video/audio conferencing, text messaging;
  • virtual visits/eVisits, eConsults and eRefferals;
  • remote patient monitoring technologies like Telehomecare;
  • wellness apps, web-based health solutions;
  • health monitoring devices;
  • electronic medical records
  • patient portals.

OTN divides virtual patients care solutions into team managed virtual care and self-managed virtual care.

Team managed virtual care includes:

  • eVisit or a virtual visit service for primary care and regular appointments connects cancer patients with their doctors either from home on their own devices or from the telemedicine room in the medical center using telehealth networks for secure virtual visits.
  • The “eConsult program” ensures that healthcare providers receive remotely additional recommendations from allied health professionals for proper care, which is very important for such a complex disease that can affect any organ spreading metastases.
  • The “Virtual Palliative Care program” is the possibility of connected care with palliative care teams at home for patients with oncology, avoiding unnecessary trips to the medical center.
  • Telehomecare is a virtual care platform that allows you to monitor the patient’s condition using remote monitoring technology to prevent physical deterioration.

Self-managed virtual care includes:

  • Online Mental Health Support network is a wellbeing service for free anonymous online psychological support for cancer patients and family members to help manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • The Immunization Records Tracker System is a healthcare application that provides access to personal immunization information and vaccination schedule, wherever you are on your Smartphone.

Thus, on the example of The OTN solution, we see comprehensive approach to ensure cancer patients quick and effective access to medical care through technological innovation.

Benefits that Virtual Care Brings to Patients

When a cancer patient has access to a virtual care platform, this facilitates the course of cancer treatment and improves his quality of life:

  • Virtual care provides patients with solutions that allow them to stay at home receiving primary/episodic consultations;
  • Patients can access practitioners and allied health professionals 24/7 on-demand or on a schedule;
  • Virtual visits reduce costs, stress, and travel/parking time, especially for those living in rural areas;
  • Road risks are reduced for patients with a suppressed immune system, frail or elderly people;
  • Relatives do not need to miss working hours to accompany the patient to appointments, as they can join video visits anywhere.

Digital Healthcare Providers in Canada

When analyzing digital healthcare solutions in Canada, the Champlain BASE eConsult Service, a web-based service for virtual visits to primary care with more than 47, 000 completed cases, as well as the Livecare Teleheath Platform, owned and operated by physicians, are worth mentioning. The platforms are considered Canada’s leading telehealth providers with extensive virtual care expertise that prove the effectiveness of virtual medical assistance. We can also mention Akira Health, Novari Health, Telus Health, Equinoxe LifeCare, and AlayaCare here as the significant healthcare platform providers in Canada.

Another related based platform in Canada that combines modern technology and effective remote psychological assistance is the NexJHealth Cancer Coaching program, in which cancer coaches work with cancer survivors and their families to meet the challenges of cancer, achieve their goals in health and wellness, and improve quality of life.

Common Virtual Care Platform Features

Surfing through and analyzing the mentioned above digital healthcare solutions, we tried to choose the most useful and typical capabilities for such platforms that empower clinicians to provide virtual care appointments and facilitate the patient’s experience. The most common portal features:

  • Participation in virtual visits in real time through audio / video conferences with multiple participants;
  • Physician-to-physician video consultation and referrals to relevant specialists;
  • Secure text messaging technologies;
  • EMR (Electronic Medical Record) integration for adding and managing patient records and medical history;
  • Scheduling to book and coordinate virtual consults;
  • Diagnostic support tools, such as file, video and image sharing, access to pre-visits diagnostics results;
  • Payment System Integration;
  • Generation of Prescriptions and provision of personal patient education;
  • Access to the results from remote patient monitoring wearable.

No wonder that Canadians value virtual care services and find it convenient and time-saving, since e-consultation improves access to practitioners without leaving your home using portable devices. Data confirmed by the results of the study from the Infoway Canada annual report for 2018-2019: there were more than 1 million e-visits in 2018, which is 500 percent more than in 2010.

Conclusions

New era medical cure implies the intention to provide more affordable up-to-date healthcare services to anyone, anywhere, anytime, thanks to telemedicine technology. Unsurprisingly, an illness such as cancer, that is hard to diagnose and long to treat, is one of the most popular diseases that healthcare on-demand providers try to accompany remotely. And the virtual care portal is a prime example of the prompt delivery of medical care today and in the future, which improves the overall health care system.

For this purpose, virtual care portals connect the patient and the physician with healthcare software that can be used on their own devices. It can also facilitate physician-to-physician interaction. As the use of virtual services grows, it becomes apparent that custom software development companies will continue to develop virtual care portals and CRM solutions for healthcare providers.

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