The Saskatchewan Government and the Health Authority are looking at ways to expand virtual medical care options.

In the time frame of March to December 2020, the province says over 1.7 million appointments were completed digitally, according to billing data. While this has been accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government explains that there have been benefits.

These have included providing less wait time for care for residents in rural or remote areas, along with those who need to see a physician for basic concerns.

In that effort, the Government will be looking to do is expand videoconferencing to replace the current Telehealth technology, eHealth Saskatchewan’s patient portal and remote monitoring.

Remote monitoring was already used to help more than 1,000 Saskatchewan residents who tested positive for COVID-19, as well as patients with other health concerns.  The province says through this system, one health care provider is able to monitor up to 100 patients at a time as they recover in their homes.

Health Minister Paul Merriman says that these new systems would support both patients access to care and support privacy and security of health information. It will also relieve current pressures on the health care system.

An autodialer system is also being rolled out, which notifies residents by phone or text within 24 hours of a lab-confirmed negative COVID-19 test result.  People who test positive continue to receive a phone call from public health.

To fund these changes, Saskatchewan has signed a bilateral agreement with the Government of Canada, which will see the province receive $6.5 million towards the virtual care expansion.

SHA Senior Medical Information Officer Dr. Vern Behl says this is a necessary investment to make this program reality and encouraging to see as they try to improve access, patient and family engagement and involvement in their own care and communication between health care teams.