Virtual Care is Growing — but Clinicians Need Modern Tools

By Rashaad Bhyat

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been struck by the rapidity of events. This has been a fast-moving virus, but the response to it has been just as swift. In digital health, strong collaboration and leadership have helped to accomplish the policy work of years in just a few weeks.

older male doctor using laptop on desk

Yet in some cases, our eagerness to pursue virtual care has outpaced the technology to execute it. Throughout the pandemic, clinicians have been making do with pre-existing resources: telephones, video chats and a host of digital workarounds. While these stopgaps have been sufficient — and necessary — to weather an acute crisis, our tools and processes must be refined if virtual care is to last beyond the current pandemic.

With this in mind, it’s not surprising that I’ve seen a surge of interest in PrescribeIT®, Canada’s national e-prescribing service. Seamless prescription transmission between the electronic medical record (EMR) and pharmacy management system (PMS) means that clinicians don’t need to add extra steps to their workflow. It’s not a workaround, it’s an integrated solution — and far more secure than telephones and faxes.

Physician early adopters of PrescribeIT® have had a relatively seamless transition to a virtual-first model of care, but it also supports the new patient experience. Paperless transmissions are a perfect fit for virtual visits and facilitate physical distancing. Secure electronic messaging also allows modernized communication between prescribers and pharmacists. Questions and clarifications regarding prescriptions can flow swiftly between an EMR and PMS, eliminating the need for phone tag and assisting with patients’ medication management.

Looking to the long term, the growth of virtual care increases the importance of e-prescribing in the modern clinician’s toolkit. With the potential for a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall, digital health tools will continue to play a vital role in supporting our health care system. Over the past few months, Canada has made substantial gains in implementing virtual care, but we need to make sure that we don’t backslide to an outmoded status quo.

This pandemic has brought massive disruption — and sparked rapid innovation. We’ve all worked well with the resources to hand, but moving forward, we need to make sure we’ve got the right tools for the job. With digital health tools like e-prescribing, we can support our health system through this crisis and beyond.

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About the author
Rashaad Bhyat

Rashaad Bhyat

Dr. Rashaad Bhyat serves as Clinician Leader on the Engagement team at Canada Health Infoway. He is a family physician with a passion for digital health, advising Infoway on numerous initiatives across Canada since 2011, including virtual care, EMR adoption and optimization, electronic prescribing, remote patient monitoring, and increasing patient access to health records. He currently practices in an EMR-enabled family medicine clinic in the Greater Toronto Area.