U of M to study rapid switch to virtual health-care delivery

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THE COVID-19 pandemic has brought virtual medical appointments into common practice — prompting a University of Manitoba team of researchers to study its successes and challenges, as they look toward the future of medical care.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/03/2021 (630 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE COVID-19 pandemic has brought virtual medical appointments into common practice — prompting a University of Manitoba team of researchers to study its successes and challenges, as they look toward the future of medical care.

“Prior to COVID, the rare tele-health was available, but it was only limited to certain people with adequate training in only certain jurisdictions,” said Dr. Mandana Modirrousta, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Max Rady College of Medicine. “Suddenly, we were not only authorized, but we were kind of forced to do that.”

This spring, Modirrousta will lead a team of researchers in a survey of health-care professionals and patients who made the rapid turnover to virtual appointments in the wake of pandemic restrictions starting April 2020.

Lou Lamari of Winnipeg didn’t frequent health-care facilities until this past year, when health flare-ups and a major surgery resulted in a 50-50 split of in-person and virtual appointments.

In some cases, Lamari said in an interview Tuesday, there were frustrations in trying to seek in-person medical care, as clinics worked to push as many appointments as possible to virtual visits.

In many other situations, however, the option for a virtual visit saved time and sped up the health-care process.

“I think that virtual care has been good in a lot of ways, because when you’re setting up a phone or video appointment, in my experience this past year, the wait time has been shorter,” Lamari said.

Those appointments, which often involved requests for referrals or setting up lab work, were seamless and quick phone calls, Lamari said, or quick video chats with nurses as Lamari learned to administer required hormone therapy.

“In that way, within community health networks, I think that the team care along with virtual health appointments have been very effective, at least for someone like me,” Lamari said.

Lamari said, in the future, those with chronic illnesses, who are immunocompromised, or who live in rural communities with less ready access to health-care facilities would likely benefit greatly from continued online options.

“When we’re talking about health-care accessibility, it doesn’t matter where you live, rural or in the city, even if the pandemic is over, it is possible that some form of virtual care will remain,” Modirrousta said Tuesday.

The survey — which will be available until the end of June — is intended to better understand the impact of this rapid switch, as well as what factors enabled health-care workers to make the transition, what challenges and obstacles they faced, and how patients feel about receiving virtual care.

Modirrousta is seeking responses from patients and health-care workers in a diverse range of regions and practices, which will in turn help policy makers (www.surveymonkey.com/r/virtualhealthMB).

julia-simone.rutgers@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jsrutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers
Reporter

Julia-Simone Rutgers is a climate reporter with a focus on environmental issues in Manitoba. Her position is part of a three-year partnership between the Winnipeg Free Press and The Narwhal, funded by the Winnipeg Foundation.

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