LETTER: Improvements needed in health communications

The ability for patients to communicate virtually with their health care provider will save time

Dear Editor:

As I write, patients are making long journeys to visit specialists for simple face to face consultations even though all diagnostic work has been completed and the reports forwarded.

But what if it were possible to be referred to a specialist, have all diagnostic work completed close to home followed by a virtual consult.

Then, once diagnosed and working within a single province wide electronic communications system, develop a treatment plan, book appointments and communicate with all needed service providers.

Results and reports flow to your specialist, GP and other service providers who all communicate.

That is a team!

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What if, incorporating this model using a province wide electronic/virtual communications network, were to result in our system moving closer to becoming patient centred care.

Alas, with few exceptions, patients, their families or caregivers are required to make long, expensive, stressful and unnecessary trips for face to face consults when a virtual consult would provide the same outcome.

The ability for patients to communicate virtually (when appropriate) with their health care provider will save days of negotiating difficult travel conditions, significant and unrecoverable costs for meals and hotels and reduced time away from work.

Expenses borne by patients, fly under the radar because they are not included on a Ministry of Health budget line.

After 20 years of government plans and promises to implement a province wide Electronic Medical Records and Virtual Health Communications system we have six health authorities (or more depending on how you count them) who can’t communicate with each other, a series of local, single condition, time limited pilot projects using virtual communication, all successful.

Then reports, mumblings around providing permanent service, then ….

The Ministry of Health Virtual Strategy Department are developing a framework which is beginning to look much like a reinvention of the wheel.

National and international studies extolling the advantages of virtual communication abound.

A Saskatchewan experiment included green benefits claiming six million kilometres saved.

My research shows that physicians and patient advocacy groups are uninterested in a province wide system serving all citizens (taxpayers). Commercial competition is fierce.

We are more than half way through a four-year election cycle, so unless there is a concerted effort to introduce a universal electronic medical record/virtual communication system soon it will drop off the to do list again.

Fanny Monk

Retired Health Worker

Kamloops

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