In addition to tools such as Bounce Back and Breaking Free Online, we use a number of digital tools to seamlessly connect our clients and patients with our care providers, wherever they are.
We work in partnership with PHSA's Office of Virtual Health to find ways to make health care more accessible for our clients and patients. Here are a few examples.
We have expanded videoconferencing technology across several of our programs and services. Correctional Health Services and Forensic Psychiatric Services often use Telehealth and/or Skype for Business to give patients and clients easier, faster access to psychiatrists, psychologists and physicians who can prescribe opioid agonist therapy.
We have installed mobile Telehealth carts at several facilities to help care providers assess and treat patients and clients. Along with videoconferencing capabilities, the carts include specialized tools such as an otoscope, a stethoscope and a wound camera. Care providers, including specialists, can use the carts for assessments, follow-up appointments, medication management, communicating lab or imaging results, and more.
Right now, Telehealth carts are available at Ashnola at the Crossing, as well as three provincial correctional centres: Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre, Okanagan Correctional Centre, and Prince George Regional Correctional Centre. We hope to make them more widely available soon.
We have launched a pilot texting project in two areas: Correctional Health Services' community transition teams, and the Forensic Psychiatric Regional Clinics. Text messaging provides an easy way to improve engagement and communication between clients and patients and their care teams.
Many of our clients and patients have faced significant barriers to accessing the health care they need, including traumatic experiences, unstable housing and stigma. They may also live in a rural area and/or be unable to travel to see a care provider.
Virtual health tools help us reduce barriers so that people with mental health or substance use challenges can receive the care and support they need wherever they are in the province, using a digital tool that works for them.
Mental health and substance use services are different from other types of medical care such as family practice and oncology. While seeing clients and patients one-on-one will always be important, much of our treatment is communication-based rather than hands-on, making us especially well-positioned to implement virtual health technologies. Clients and patients in many of our programs regularly see physicians and other care providers using Telehealth tools.
We are committed to continuing to work closely with PHSA's Office of Virtual Health to create even more opportunities to improve communication and care delivery and remove barriers for vulnerable people.
If you are a health professional and are interested in integrating virtual health into your services, visit PHSA's Office of Virtual Health for more information.