Starting this week, Durham Region residents who have a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19 and are discharged home to recover will now have access to continued care and community supports through a new “Virtual Ward” provided through a special App on their mobile device.
The new Virtual Ward builds on established Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) services and is a collaboration between Central East LHIN Home and Community Care Support Services and Lakeridge Health. The Virtual Ward provides a digital and remote monitoring option for patients, enabling them to maintain close contact with Home and Community Care registered nurses (Care Coordinators) and Lakeridge Health physicians.
“The Virtual Ward provides people with access to the critical health care services needed to support them to recover from COVID-19 in the safety of their home,” said Susan deRyk, Interim President and CEO, Lakeridge Health. “By creating innovative tools like the Virtual Ward, Lakeridge Health is making it easier for people to access care when and where it is need and is transforming how acute health care is delivered across Durham Region. Finding new and better ways to deliver care is more important than ever as we come together to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
Referred patients will receive a text or an email with instructions on downloading the special App. Twice-daily phone alerts will remind patients to self-screen and monitor their symptoms. A Care Coordinator from Central East LHIN Home and Community Care Support Services reviews patients’ feedback about their symptoms and, if necessary, arranges a virtual video visit or consult with a Lakeridge Health physician.
“Our new Virtual Ward remote monitoring program is essential in the fight against COVID-19 and ensures safe access to health care while abiding by self-isolation and social distancing guidelines. This approach, while driven by the conditions around the COVID-19 crisis, represents the type of patient-focused approach that will serve us well as we continue to transform our health care system with digital tools beyond our current crisis. Patients are able to feel more comfortable and confident in their recovery having remote access to our redeployed Care Coordinators who work with patients to understand changing symptoms and help detect any potential health problems or worsening conditions,” said Renato Discenza, Transitional Regional Lead and CEO of Ontario Health East. “Thank you to Lakeridge Health for their leadership in partnering in this initiative and being the first to test this remote monitoring system. Ontario Health East is currently working to roll out Virtual Wards across other communities in our region so all residents can benefit from virtual access today and in the future.”
To ensure Virtual Ward is available to all patients who could benefit, individuals without access to the digital App will be telephoned twice a day by a nurse to check their symptoms. The service is available seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m