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Virtual Care

Virtual care is a health care delivery model that enables our patients to access high quality care outside of the hospital environment. This is achieved through the use of technology or other forms of communication.

As part of this delivery model, patients have virtual visits. A virtual visit is an appointment with your doctor or health care team that does not involve an in-person meeting.

There are two types of virtual visits:

  • A phone visit, where you speak with your doctor/healthcare team using a telephone or smartphone
  • An e-visit, where you speak with your doctor/healthcare team using a smartphone, computer or other personal device with a microphone and camera

FAQs

Why is Hamilton Health Sciences offering virtual visits?

Hamilton Health Sciences offers virtual visits to provide high quality, safe care to our patients and families outside of the hospital environment. Virtual care reduces travel time and other costs associated with on-site visits for patients, while maintaining access to care.

What happens during a virtual visit?

Your health care team talks with you about your current health status, any symptoms you may be experiencing and your needs. If your health care team feels that an in-person visit would be a better fit for you, they will discuss your options and next steps with you.

During your appointment, you and your health care team will talk about how you’re feeling, your questions and next steps in your care plan.

How is a virtual visit booked?

A member of your health care team will call you and inform you that your appointment will be virtual and talk to you about options for virtual care.

The decision on which type of virtual visit you have will be made based on your care needs and the technology you and the clinic have access to.

As part of the booking process a member of your healthcare team will:

  • Give you instructions on how to prepare
  • Ask for your verbal consent for the upcoming appointment
  • Let you know the day and time of your virtual visit and confirm they have your preferred contact information.

Depending on how the visit is booked, different communications forms or technology may be used.

If you have a virtual phone visit booked, you will use your smartphone or telephone during the visit.

If you have a virtual video visit booked, the platform will be Ontario Telehealth Network (OTN) or Zoom Healthcare.

What equipment do I need?

For a phone visit you will need:

  • Private space
  • A telephone or smartphone
  • Pen and paper to write down any questions or instructions from your health care team

For a video visit you will need:

  • Private space
  • A personal device (smartphone, tablet, camera) with a microphone and camera
  • High speed internet
  • An email address (to receive the link for your visit)
  • Pen and paper to write down any questions or instructions from your health care team

Note: If you don’t have access to the equipment above, your health care team will do everything that they can to make other arrangements for you to access care appropriate to your needs.

How can I prepare for my virtual visit?

  1. Make sure that your technology is set up and functional
  2. Find a quiet, private space so that you can easily hear and be heard\
  3. Decide if you would like a family member or caregiver to be with you during the visit
  4. Have all your materials ready prior to the meeting including:
    • Health Card
    • Pen and paper to write down information and instructions
    • List of medications being taken (if applicable)
    • Notes of medical history, symptoms
  5.  Think about and write down questions you would like to ask

Protecting your privacy during your virtual visit

Your privacy is very important to us at HHS. We protect your privacy during virtual visits in the same way as we do during a clinic visit.

This means:

  • Only the people providing care to you will be present during your appointment – unless you are part of a group care session, in which case other members of the group session will also be present.
  • Discussion during the visit will be documented in your health record, just like an in-person appointment would be.
  • We suggest that you take similar steps to protect your own privacy. This means being aware of your surroundings and who may be able to overhear your virtual visit.

The video conferencing platforms that HHS uses are used by many hospitals in Ontario and Canada. These platforms have been reviewed by our Privacy and Information Security teams, and recognizing that there some risk associated with email correspondence, we are taking appropriate precautions to make sure your information is as safe and secure as possible.

  • Calls and video are not recorded or kept by OTN or Zoom Healthcare after you appointment finishes
  • HHS is not responsible for the security of patients’ internet service providers, email domains, personal devices or personal computers.
  • We suggest that you use your personal email when communicating about your health and not a work email address, as your employer may have the right to inspect your work email.
  • Use a secure internet connection. Do not use a public internet connection such as at the airport internet café, public library or other open area. Other people may be able to use the link to listen in on your appointment without you knowing.

Can I decline a virtual visit or change my mind?

Yes, you can decline or withdraw your consent for virtual visits or communication using email or text, at any time, by contacting your health care provider.

 

Initiatives

At Hamilton Health Sciences, we are proud to offer a range of virtual care offerings for our patients and families. Please click below to learn more about the virtual programs currently being offered at HHS.

Remote Patient Monitoring

Surgical Transitions Program

The Surgical Transitions program allows surgical patients to recover at home while being remotely monitored by a hospital-to-home virtual team from the hospital command centre. The program is based on the latest Canadian research led by a team of surgical care researchers at the Population Health Research Institute, a joint institute of HHS and McMaster University, and expanded in the spring of 2021 thanks to provincial funding.

Resources:
Patient Information Sheet

Community Paramedic Remote Patient Monitoring (CPRPM)

Due to the pandemic surge and activities in our COVID units, we are collaborating with Hamilton Paramedic Services to provide remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions as a strategy to support early discharges of COVID, COPD and CHF patients from our hospital units. They are currently open for referrals from Hamilton General Hospital and Juravinski Hospital as of January 4th, 2022 and can monitor COVID patients for up to 2 weeks.

West Lincoln Memorial Hospital & Niagara Emergency Medical Services

West Lincoln Memorial Hospital is collaborating with Niagara Emergency Medical Services to provide remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions as a strategy to support early discharges of COVID patients with comorbidities such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Virtual Visits

VirtualGIM (General Internal Medicine)

The Virtual General Internal Medicine Clinic (VirtualGIM) supports the transition of medicine patients from hospital to home through virtual visits with a registered nurse. The program allows patients to recover in the comfort of their home environment, with their support persons (if applicable).

As a patient, you receive phone or video calls from a Registered Nurse about your specific healthcare needs, in consultation with an Internal Medicine physician. This may include ensuring new medications are working as intended, that outpatient testing is set up, or that home care supports are in place.

Resources:
Patient Information Sheet

Complex Care Pediatrics

The Complex Care team is a team of health professionals who provide and coordinate care for children who have complex medical conditions. The team can facilitate the transition from acute care to home for parents/caregivers virtually by:

  • Supporting families on the day of discharge from hospital upon arrival home with virtual visit, to ensure a safe transition
  • Ensure stability of the child post discharge through a virtual visit
  • Post discharge virtual clinics with child/parents & community homecare team

Pediatric Palliative Care

The journey of children with palliative care needs and their families spans many settings (e.g. home, school community hospital clinics and wards) over the phases of their condition. The Virtual Pediatric Palliative Care program is a single-point-of-contact system for families with children with palliative needs to improve care experience and navigation. This includes:

  • Additional supports for families including virtual peer support groups
  • Access to an interprofessional network of health professionals

Resources:
QoLA Patient Information Sheet

Psycho-social Oncology Program

The psycho-social oncology (PSO) program pivoted quickly to adjust to pandemic-related challenges by integrating virtual care services seamlessly into its model of care. In 2020-21, 91% of psychiatry and nursing, 89% of psychology and 62% social work visits were conducted through virtual platforms. Qualitative feedback for this group show that PSO is offering therapies that enhance patients’ support and acquisition of new strategies for coping with cancer.

LTC Cares

This program is designed to create improved access to hospital level acute care resources for Long-term care (LTC) residents from their homes, ultimately enhancing care for residents while reducing unnecessary transfers to the Emergency Department (ED). More information can be found on the Hamilton Family Health Team website.