Transcending geography with virtual care

“What we’ve discovered is there are thousands of patients we can see virtually who can avoid a trip to the hospital. But each case is different. The most important thing is that the patient is seen at the right time, by the right provider, using the right method.”

– Ashley Graham, Senior Clinical Manager, Digital & Virtual Care

When we launched SickKids 2025, our Virtual Care Strategy was just a vision. Today it’s a reality for many of our patients and providers. As the pandemic took hold in 2020, we acted quickly to accelerate the availability of virtual care across our ambulatory operations and other services, expanding virtual care for patients and families from Orthopedics to Psychiatry. Virtual visits soared above 80,000 in 2022 compared to 14,000 the year prior to the strategy launch.

Patients and family caregivers have shared high levels of satisfaction with SickKids virtual visits. Feedback from users is included in yearly action plans to drive quality improvements and help sustain virtual as a mode of care beyond the pandemic.

SickKids subsequently launched a Virtual Urgent Care program to better meet the needs of children, youth, and their families. The program enables access to real-time guidance for urgent health concerns from any mobile device, tablet, or personal computer connected to the internet or cellular service. In 2022–23, our symptom checker was used 23,000 times, with 5,756 virtual visits completed between children and families and a member of the ED team. This was followed quickly by the first partnership in a joint neonatal-paediatric virtual critical care consulting network between SickKids critical care teams and eight community hospital sites.

A refreshed Virtual Care Strategy endorsed by SickKids leadership paved the way for the creation of a Virtual Care Operational Group to drive implementation of these and future programs. Under the strategic direction to create a seamless child and family experience, the implementation of a coordinated suite of virtual care services is improving choice, convenience, and access for children and families.