Entering a new era of "SickKids care, anytime, anywhere"
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Ontario, SickKids ramped up its range of virtual care solutions – from virtual appointments to virtual visits.
Virtual care figures prominently in SickKids 2025, our new five-year strategic plan, but the onset of COVID-19 rocketed some of these longer-term plans into the here and now.
With the pandemic creating a need to reduce volumes and potential exposures in the hospital, SickKids saw an opportunity to ramp up its range of virtual care solutions – from virtual appointments to virtual visits.
Our virtual care strategy
Developed in 2019, SickKids’ Virtual Care Strategy offered a solid foundation to build upon; however, the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation demanded a concerted effort to fast-track the expansion of virtual care services. Our vision: SickKids care, anytime, anywhere.
“COVID-19 is spurring our people’s creativity and changing our views of what is possible,” says Ashley Graham, Project Manager, Ambulatory Virtual Care. “We are thinking differently about what we can do and how we can change the way we work to meet the needs of our patients, families and staff.”
SickKids’ ambulatory care clinics have witnessed a rapid rise in virtual care appointments. The daily average of virtual appointments has gone from six in April 2019 to more than 200 today. April 2020 saw more than 7,197 virtual appointments – that’s over 3,000 more than all of last year combined.
Through the adoption of new technologies, SickKids’ Ophthalmology clinic has been able to maintain more than 50 per cent of appointments through COVID-19.
With virtual care, hundreds of patients and their family members are spared having to make a trip to the hospital, in some cases driving long distances, meaning far fewer visitors coming through our doors to help minimize the health risks for everyone at SickKids.
“Instead of having to coordinate getting four people physically in a room together at once, you could have a nurse, dietitian, surgeon and patient each in their own space but brought together through one of our preferred virtual care platforms,” Ashley adds. “Physical distancing doesn’t have to get in the way of collaboration.”
Virtual care does not come at the expense of quality care at SickKids. Continuing to provide safe and effective care for children is always the priority. If a health concern cannot be fully addressed at a distance, an in-person appointment will take place.
“We feel the future is bright for virtual care across SickKids and we want to maintain our momentum once COVID-19 subsides,” Ashley says.
Virtual care visits
Emergency Department consultations
Emergency Department Physician Daniel Rosenfield tests a new virtual consult system that connects patients and families in the Emergency Department with SickKids health-care providers, allowing consultations to take place via iPads when face-to-face contact is not possible or necessary.
Mental Health triage rounds
The Psychiatry Department conducts morning triage rounds virtually, allowing our in-hospital teams to catch up on overnight activity across the Emergency Department and medical surgical units. This important information exchange helps us to plan appropriately for the day and ensure children and youth patients receive the appropriate mental health supports they need without delay.
Alisa Bar-Dayan, a Registered Dietitian in STOMP (SickKids Team Obesity Management Program), is working to provide virtual care to patients from home. In addition, Bar-Dayan is able to chart remotely.
Home monitoring data
The Heart Centre is using a home monitoring program using the Locus Health app. Parents enter their child’s data at routine intervals and the app automatically signals if they need to contact SickKids should anything deviate from pre-set parameters. Pictured in the screenshot below is an example of the kind of data the Heart Centre would collect from a remote patient.
Child Life visits
The show must go on - and it does - thanks to virtual visiting taking place at the hospital with the support of SickKids Child Life Specialists and Creative Arts Therapy. Pictured below is a recent video interview of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews, who answered the questions of our Therapeutic Clown A.Leboo. The interview aired on CCTV, SickKids Channel 41.
AboutKidsHealth launched a COVID-19 Learning Hub, complete with videos and other resources about how to support child mental health and general well-being through physical activity, sleep, nutrition and learning.
You can also access some parts of your health care information virtually through MyChart.