“The new Virtual Health Standard will help to make virtual health more of a norm across the health care system,” says HSO Technical Committee expert Dr. Laura Lee Copeland. “We have yet to experience health care in this way.”

Dr. Laura Lee Copeland

Dr. Laura Lee Copeland

In December, HSO launched the Virtual Health Standard (HSO 83001:2018 – Virtual Health Standard) – a National Standard of Canada that will be applied around the world.

This standard was developed in response to the emergence of virtual health as a valuable and viable method of health service delivery.

Dr. Copeland notes that with virtual health, distance becomes less important, allowing patients to easily connect with the right expertise.

“This is very exciting,” Copeland says. “Through virtual care, we’ll be able to better meet people’s needs without the inconvenience of unnecessary travel.”

Dr. Copeland, who has been a physician and medical informatics specialist for more than 15 years, is a member of HSO’s Technology-Enabled Health Technical Committee, which worked on the development of the standard. She is also an emergency physician practicing medical psychotherapy and Chief Medical Information Officer for Healthtech Consultants.

She says the Technical Committee process is important because it brings all stakeholders together to shape the future of health care.

“You need to have everybody’s perspectives, as these are going to drive priorities and guidelines for organizations moving forward,” she said. “You want to make sure that you are moving in the right direction.”

Dr. Copeland notes that her favourite part of the Technical Committee process – aside from having a new, finalized standard – was having all of the Technical Committee members working together in Ottawa.

HSO’s Technical Committees bring together patients, family members, clinicians, health service administrators, government and health services stakeholders, and researchers to work on standards that improve health and social services in Canada and around the world.

“All of us were at the same table, getting to know each other, sharing our perspectives and experiences,” she said. “You get to work with a diverse group of people with perspectives you might not get to see in your day job.”

Dr. Copeland says she was inspired to join the Technical Committee after a few HSO staff members visited her workplace, the digital Humber River Hospital in Toronto, Ont.

“I was very enthusiastic about the types of topics that we’d be addressing and to have the opportunity to sit at a table with people from all walks of life who are also keenly interested in this topic.”

She adds that being part of the Technical Committee was an “incredible privilege.”

“I feel that in many ways, there’s a tremendous amount of responsibility attached to being in a position to help point the direction of future activities through these efforts,” Copeland said.

Copeland is a strong advocate for the adoption of technology in health care, having worked in remote Canadian areas and learning about the challenges such communities face.

“I worked in one medical clinic that didn’t even have a computer,” she said. Dr. Copeland said that to effectively serve patients, she would go home at night, look up information on her own computer and follow up with patients on the phone after hours. “I guess that was my first experience in virtual care!”

Additionally, Copeland has extensive experience from the patient perspective as several of her family members have Hemophilia.

Dr. Copeland notes that when discussing the evolution of health care or of any patient-related service, it’s important to have patients at the table. “In the end, it is the service to the patient that matters,” Copeland says.

She adds that patients who are new to the health care system also have valuable insight, being able to identify gaps existing in guidance or information sharing.

“Patients who are not accustomed to the system can identify gaps that exist in the process of navigating through the health care system,” she said. “It’s easy to forget how scary the system can be when you are used to living in it daily.”

Since 2017, HSO has been working to include patients in everything we do. At HSO, patients work as active partners within the organization and are also members of Technical Committees to ensure that the patient perspective is always being brought to light.

At HSO’s affiliate, Accreditation Canada, patients are surveyors and are an active part of the accreditation process.

Dr. Copeland says that if someone is passionate about a particular subject in health care and are willing to share their expertise, they should join a Technical Committee.

“They should be excited to meet new people, share their experience or expertise, and be willing to work with a diverse group of people,” she said.

Do you think you or someone you know could be an asset to a Technical Committee? Learn more about HSO’s Technical Committees and how to apply here.

Additionally, Dr. Copeland will be co-presenting on virtual health at the 2019 National Health Leaders Conference (NHLC) in Toronto in June.

Copeland will be presenting with HSO Standards Program Manager Amy Pack and fellow Technical Committee member Mathieu Jackson, Vice-President of the Canadian Hemophilia Society (CHS) on a panel entitled Virtual Health: Impossible Without Patients – Panel Perspectives from a Patient, a Provider and a Health Sciences Specialist. Attendees will gain insights on the undeniable value-add of involving patients in the conception and delivery of virtual health services, inspiring health care leaders from around the world to implement systematic change in the way they engage with patients.

Learn more about the conference here.