First Nations people living in remote areas of BC often have inadequate access to medical services. The Real-Time Virtual Support (RTVS) network is a health care service that mitigates that health care imbalance.
The RTVS is a virtual network that gives health care providers in remote areas access to expertise and support from colleagues at larger centres. It uses the same concept of holding a virtual meeting for those who work from home. The network allows the FNHA to provide culturally appropriate and timely virtual care to First Nations members in remote areas of BC.
The benefits of the network are that First Nations people seeking medical care, and their family members, can stay closer to home and their supports without having to take long and expensive trips to larger centres for certain medical services or to see a specialist.
The network also mitigates the isolation health care providers in remote locations can experience –isolation from specialist information or even moral and emotional support. This means health care providers in remote locations, who are often at the beginning of their careers, feel supported in their work and are less likely to experience burn out.
According to one study in a peer reviewed journal, there are significant health care gaps for people living in remote areas of BC. It goes on to say that the RTVS network plays a significant role in increasing health equity and access. The study also shows massive growth in the number of people who use the service and high satisfaction from both patients and health care providers.
The FNHA offers several options for Virtual Health and eHealth services. Two of these services are the Virtual Doctor of the Day and Virtual Substance Use and Psychiatry Service. The Virtual Doctor of the Day service provides access to primary health care for people who have limited or no access to their own doctors. The doctors are trained in the principles of cultural safety and humility and appointments don't require a referral.
The Virtual Substance Use and Psychiatry Service is a free service for First Nations people in BC that provides access to specialists in addictions medicine and psychiatry as well as mental health and wellness care coordinators. This service does require a referral from trusted health and wellness providers, Knowledge Keepers and Elders, or the Virtual Doctor of the Day if the client doesn't have their own access to a referral partner.
The RTVS network is a partnership with the FNHA, the BC Ministry of Health, the Rural Coordination Centre of BC, the BC Emergency Medicine Network, and the Digital Emergency Medicine Unit at the University of British Columbia's Department of Emergency Medicine.
More information about the RTVS network can be found here.