U of M studying impact of virtual health care during the pandemic

WINNIPEG — As it has been almost a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Manitoba, people have had to adjust to the times.

One of the changes brought on during the pandemic is virtual health-care appointments.

With it being implemented so rapidly, researchers at the University of Manitoba are starting a study to look at the impact of the service on both patients and health-care workers.

“Researchers in the department of psychiatry at the Max Rady College of Medicine in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences are inviting both health-care workers and patients who have experienced virtual health care during the pandemic,” the university said in a news release.

“We think that, even if the pandemic is over, the widespread use of virtual care at some point will be inevitable,” said Dr. Mandana Modirrousta, the lead of the study and an associate professor of psychiatry.

The school said the study is being conducted to better understand the ability of health-care workers, the challenges and obstacles as well as patients’ thoughts on receiving virtual care.

“While virtual care has been used in some form for many years, the number of patients accessing services by phone or computer and the number of health-care providers offering appointments and care in this way has increased dramatically throughout the pandemic. Understanding what has worked and what hasn’t is important as we consider how this technology can be leveraged to improve access to health services for Manitobans going forward,” Lanette Siragusa, the chief nursing officer for Shared Health, said in a news release.

Modirrousta said they have received 300 responses to the survey so far, but they are hoping to receive 1,000.

“We are still looking for respondents, especially patient respondents, particularly people who are living in rural areas, because this is important for us to see how they perceive that, if it was a benefit to them or it was more challenging.”

The U of M said it plans to share the study with policymakers. Modirrousta said data will be most important for provincial and national health-care systems.

The survey will remain open until June.

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