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The Future of Virtual Care: Support and Care for Seniors in the Comfort of Home

Just over a decade ago, Dr. Clare Liddy, a family doctor with The Ottawa Hospital Academic Family Health Team, and endocrinologist Dr. Erin Keely collaborated with the Bruyère Research Institute to develop a digital tool called eConsult. This unique innovation allows family physicians to consult with any number of specialists involved in the care of a patient, and it is now being used effectively in almost every province.

Excited about the potential of digital tools to have a positive impact on the health of Canada’s seniors, Dr. Liddy would like to see further changes at the government level to support virtual care. “The technology to engage in virtual or video visits with patients already exists but adjustments to privacy legislation are required along with a commitment to proper compensation.”

For Dr. Liddy, virtual advances could enhance the care she provides to patients in endless ways. “I could conduct many of my office visits in the form of a virtual house call and expand communications to work with nursing staff out in the community. I also really like the idea of using these tools to bring family members and caregivers into the conversation. For instance, say that I have a patient in my office with a daughter in Connecticut and a daughter in Toronto. Wouldn't it be great to have a face-to-face family meeting of all of us through video?”

Another idea would be to use technology to maximize limited expertise. “Canada has a really small number of specialized geriatricians and setting up some sort of virtual National Centre of Excellence for Elder Care could be a really beneficial way of teaching, learning and sharing knowledge.  

Dr. Liddy also sees great advantages for all in using virtual care to help manage Canada’s impending “senior boom.” “Our country currently lacks the infrastructure to meet the needs of our growing senior population. There needs to be a system change that goes beyond merely adding more beds. Virtual health and other tools currently in development at the Bruyère Research Institute can be used to create care environments within the home, which is where most patients would like to be.”

Asked what the greatest benefit she, as a family physician, has derived through the use of virtual care in her practice, Dr. Liddy does not hesitate. “I get great satisfaction from being able to deliver high quality care and it is hugely rewarding when my patients feel like they are being looked after.”

If a better Health care system matters to you, click here to join CMA Health Advocates and you can tell you MP why virtual care would mean a healthier Canada.

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