We are happy to announce that we’ve launched the new Virtual Health Standard – a National Standard of Canada that will be applied around the world (HSO 83001:2018 – Virtual Health Standard).

This new standard works to provide guidelines for health organizations participating in virtual health services to improve the safety, quality and effectiveness of these services.

The standard, criteria, and guidelines are grouped into five sections covering; Virtual Health service design, Role of the patient in the Virtual Health service, Ethical and Safe Virtual Health service, and Patient records used in the Virtual Health service.

This standard was developed in response to the emergence of virtual health services as an increasingly valuable and viable method of health service delivery, enabling patients to receive care in the comfort of their own home, and reducing the amount of stress caused by travel time, among other benefits.

Virtual health services have changed health care, working to support and communicate with patients living in remote and isolated areas.

What does this new standard mean for patients and families?

Health organizations that deliver virtual health services will have guidance, which works to ensure the quality and safety of these services.

Additionally, for policy makers, this standard provides a blueprint for requirements to designate organizations that receive and/or deliver virtual health services in their jurisdictions.

Also, external assessment bodies will now have measurable requirements to include in assessment programs. For clients of HSO Assessment Partners, including Accreditation Canada, you will be contacted by your assessment partner with ample notice to prepare before this standard becomes part of your accreditation program.

This new standard replaces our older Telehealth Standard, which did not reflect current issues affecting virtual health services. The modernized standard focuses on the importance of technology in the delivery of health services through facilitating communication, information transfer, and education.

The new Virtual Health Standard was developed through our rigorous standards development process, which includes input from a Technical Committee of patients, family members, clinicians, health service administrators, government and health services stakeholders, and researchers.

These experts worked together to put forward an evidence-based standard that puts safety, quality of care, and best practice at the center of virtual health services.

The standard also underwent a two-month public review process, where members of the medical community and the general public were invited to provide feedback.

Laurie Poole, Co-Chair of the Technology-Enabled Health Technical Committee who worked on the standard, says that it’s exciting to see the new Virtual Health Standard furthering the evolution of health care in a digital world.

“Virtual health enables safe and accessible care closer to home, and in some instances directly to the home, so I was thrilled to see patients and families represented on the Technical Committee, working alongside health care providers and policy makers,” Poole said.

She adds: “Organizations and health care providers that adopt and implement the Virtual Health Standard will help make telehealth an integral part of our health care system – making it easier and more convenient for patients to receive care where and when they need it!”

Poole is a Registered Nurse and MHSA/Vice-President, Clinical Innovation, at the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN).

Eric Gombrich, the committee’s other Co-Chair and Executive Vice-President of Partnerships at Cloudbreak Health, notes that telemedicine and telehealth are experiencing a boom in terms of interest and adoption.

“Developing and adopting standards that serve to ensure quality of care, quality of life for caregivers, safety, and sustainability will be key to this inevitable modality of health care and wellness delivery models,” he says.

Gomrich adds that though there is an emergence of virtual health services, few stakeholders have recognized that it’s more about process and workflow, than about the deployment of a particular technology.

“I’m proud to have been part of this sentinel, multi-stakeholder work to start ensuring that what we do in the context of telemedicine and telehealth goes far beyond the technical considerations,” he said.

You can learn more about this standard and purchase it here.