Virtual health care for kids, expanded during the pandemic, here to stay

Natasha Phillips is pictured at home in B.C.'s north with her partner and son, Kyle.

Expanded virtual care, fast-tracked during the pandemic, has been a success says BC Children’s Hospital.

During the pandemic, some BC Children’s Hospital programs increased virtual health visits from five to 100 per cent and others quickly implemented or expanded virtual care, states a news release put out Tuesday by Provincial Health Services Authority, the body that manages health services across B.C.

“One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has fast-tracked adoption of virtual care throughout our health system,” says Dr. Jana Davidson, chief medical health officer for BC Children’s and BC Women’s.

Sixty per cent of BC Children’s patients live outside the Vancouver Coastal Health region, states the release.

“It’s a tremendous time saver for families who do not live close to the hospital,” says pediatric dermatologist Dr. Wingfield Rehmus.

Natasha Phillips, whose son Kyle’s condition requires eight specialists at BC Children’s Hospital, says in the release the virtual visits have been a gift because the family hasn’t had to travel 2,500 kilometres from their home as often for treatment.

“Rare disease and a pandemic have thrown our world into disarray, But we are so grateful for the changes that can happen when crisis hits” says Phillips.

She says the virtual visits have provided more of a sense of normalcy and travel cost savings for the family.

BC Children’s Hospital says one year after virtual visits were expanded some programs report their waitlists are shrinking, and adds a survey of outpatients shows almost three-quarters of respondents rate patient care the same or better than in-person visits.

A doctor who led a study on how well virtual visits were working for families of children with diabetes, Dr. Brenden Hursh, added, “This unusual time, with all its significant challenges, has provided us with a unique opportunity to align our health care with what families clearly want – care that’s closer to home.”