Blog - Pilot Program in Virtual Care Proves to be Invaluable

Two years ago, with the help of UHKF donors, Dr. Ramana Appireddy (pictured left), Stroke Neurologist and Medical Director at Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s (KHSC) Stroke Prevention Clinic, began a pilot project testing the effectiveness of virtual patient visits (eVisits). These eVisits allow people to stay at home where possible and use their own computers, smartphones or tablets to speak with their physician.

“We had an excellent response from the patients,” says Dr. Appireddy. “There are lots of barriers to coming into the clinic, especially for senior stroke patients. But there’s no doubt that virtual care is a winner for the patients. It’s also much more efficient for the physicians and it optimizes use of hospital resources with a huge cost saving per patient.”

One amazing outcome of the project for patients is that wait times for follow-up appointments can be reduced. The results also showed that patient and family satisfaction remains high in virtual care, with 94 per cent feeling their eVisits were the same or better than in-person visits.

“I felt as if I was in your office talking to you face to face,” says a 90-year-old participant. Another 88-year-old survey respondent says, “It was nice not to drive to the hospital, pay for parking, and make the physical effort of getting to the appointment destination.”

Thanks to his innovative pilot project, Dr. Appireddy was able to create a model on how to do eVisits for specialist care. This was invaluable when he was called upon to lead the roll-out of virtual care across KHSC during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to slow the spread of the virus and to be able to respond to a potential surge in patients, access to KHSC hospital sites has been restricted. When appropriate, eVisits have allowed physicians to continue to meet the clinical needs of their patients.

“With organizational engagement and everybody’s support, I could tell people about the difficulties of implementing virtual care and how to address each of those issues,” says Dr. Appireddy. “It was my pleasure to guide my colleagues in their adoption of eVisits. Whenever we can address the barriers people face, we are putting patients and their families at the centre of improving their access to health care.”

“KHSC is very fortunate to have progressive leaders, like Dr. Appireddy, who have embraced virtual care to enhance patient-access to healthcare in southeast Ontario, long before the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, Chief of Staff and Vice-President of Medical Affairs at KHSC. “Virtual care is clearly here to stay and, when used appropriately for a patient’s healthcare needs, is an important tool to provide high quality, accessible and cost-effective health care. Through the leadership of Dr. Appireddy and others at KHSC, and restricted ability to provide in-person care during the COVID-19 pandemic, clinicians across KHSC have enthusiastically grasped the opportunity that virtual care provides to help meet our patients’ healthcare needs.”