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What's going to be the new "Virtual" mix?

As we proceed through this time of social restrictions we have been adding in more and more layers of the services we can offer virtually.

Granted, some services can't be performed virtually. Examples include performing essential injections of medications. (I will write about the process we go through for those another time!)

Also we have been in lock down a few times with people showing up with overwhelming mental health issues which seem to fall through all cracks. On the front line sometimes it seems like we are last man/woman standing for people who are just stuck. We have witnessed so many stories of survival, resilience and endurance from our patients over the last few weeks.

Notwithstanding the above, we found that we needed to find ways to do certain things without breaching social distancing guidelines.

In our weight loss program I carried on with virtual coaching. Using bluetooth scales and specialized apps people were able to stay on track and in the loop with me.

Then, using a secured clinical video system I "meet" with each dieter once per week. We review their weights, measures, food journal, victories, challenges etc in real time as if they were in my clinic. Most importantly though, we have the video link.

People, including some other pharmacists, ask why I invested so much in video and other systems? Can't I just use the telephone? Well I suppose I could but I would not be able to share in the excitement that I see in the person's eyes as they reach certain goals. I would not be able to give them a virtual high five. I would not be able to note the disconnect between them saying "I'm fine" while pursing their lips with obvious stress and exhaustion on their face.

On the pharmacy side we are able to make certain prescribing decisions over video that are not possible over the telephone. The video conversation coupled with a thorough history and the provincial Electronic Health Record can be a way to help people through these restrictions.

I should note that many local family doctors in our town seem to be very savvy in this regard as well. Between us and them there is no need to delay having minor ailments addressed. So reach out for help!

We seemed pretty adept at enhancing our virtual capabilities during this crisis. I guess that's why we were nominated a few years ago for a Sherwood Park Chamber of Commerce award in Innovation. (Thank you very much... 😎).

The million dollar question is: Will we shift to an only virtual model for certain services after the COVID-19 pandemic? As much as I love technology and as much as it has helped us through these times I am afraid that the answer is no. (Plot twist!)

Of course we will continue with these technological tools as an enhancement of care- for convenience, for helping people through time and space constraints. However, we always need the door open to personal and in-person services. There are some things that we just can't do virtually because, well, we are human.

As Pharmacists, we are the most accessed and most accessible frontline healthcare workers in society. I am proud that we (our profession) adapted in an instant to maintain this role. Please stay safe and home for now but when all this is behind us please pop in and say hi!

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