From left to right: Princeton Huang, Ellie Mackay, Stephanie Bateson, Nicole Knee, Cristina Sutter, Helena Jung and Christie Lang (missing from photo are Sara Mackenzie, Christine Hardie, Khatereh Gaymadi, Karen Lebeau).
For Debbie Hunglo, diabetes isn't new. She's had diabetes for many years, but recently, upon advice from her doctor, was referred to the North Shore Chronic Disease team for some additional education on nutrition. Then COVID-19 hit.
“Being able to still access the education and information I was looking for from the nurses and dietician was really great," says Debbie, who had never before had a virtual-health session. “It was all pretty easy and way more convenient. You feel like you're right there in the classroom because you can see the person leading the session and the other participants. Everyone contributes and asks questions. It was excellent."
The North Shore Diabetes Education Program is one of the many patient education and clinical programs that went 100 per cent virtual when the pandemic hit in March. Ellen Mackay, Dietitian, says the North Shore Chronic Disease team sees a full gamut of patients from pediatrics, gestational diabetes, adults to geriatrics and that the transition from classroom learning to a virtual platform has been a pretty seamless experience due to the commitment to quality care by the team.
“We've basically taken the in-person classroom and put it on Zoom virtual classroom. The clients can see each other, interact with each other, ask questions — it's just like an in-person session, but online," she explains, adding that the team also offers appointments by phone and email.
The team has also had early virtual-health adopters that spearheaded their own ideas to replicate clinics — such as the pediatric clinic, which typically sees up to 20 clients per day — to a virtual setting. The team re-created their in-person clinic days online, complete with breakout rooms for clinicians. The patients enter the virtual waiting room, which is managed by a clinical assistant, and are then moved from virtual room to room to see different specialists.
“It's a brilliant system," says Ellen. “At the end, the patient and their parents are able to see every clinician, the clinician can determine their care plan and then review it with the family — all virtually."
The Coastal Virtual Health team, Shilpi Shah and Arlene Singh, say “the North Shore Chronic Disease team saw the value of virtual health early on pre-COVID-19 days and have been pioneers in adopting this technology. It was a pleasure working with this team as they brought fresh innovative ideas and advocated for delivery of high-quality care virtually."
For Debbie, additional benefits of the virtual sessions are not only the time and money saved by not having to drive to the hospital, but the added safety of being able to stay in the comfort of her own home.
“The fact that I didn't have to go out to a public building with everything going on right now was a huge comfort," she says. “The virtual sessions really help fill a gap and are a positive move forward for the future."
With the exception of the Diabetes Foot Care Program, all of the North Shore Chronic Disease programming converted to virtual health without missing a beat. All of the teams are continuously evaluating, adapting, and modifying to improve how they deliver care. Thanks to their great virtual-health success, the clinic has also begun to offer virtual outreach to rural and remote areas such as Bella Coola; has begun planning for a virtual pulmonary rehab exercise program in the fall; and adapted a hybrid model of in-person and virtual clinics and education as they move through their re-opening phase.
The BREATH Program team from left to right: Janet Lun, Barb Moore and Eve Dedinsky.