Northern BC research shows telehealth most effective when supported by in-person visits, relationships

The research team (left to right): Dr. Travis Holyk, and Dr. John Pawlovich. Not shown: Chris Ross, Alison Hooper. (Photo credits: UNBC; Rob Shaer)

A group of Northern BC researchers published a study in the BC Medical Journal (BCMJ) suggesting that the benefits of telehealth increase when combined with face-to-face physician visits, and when a relationship exists with a specific physician and a primary care home.

The study was led by Dr. Travis Holyk, Executive Director of Research, Primary Care and Strategic Services at Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS) and supported by Dr. John Pawlovich, Director of the Rural Education Action Plan (REAP), Chris Ross, MA, and Alison Hooper, BA. The team closely examined the impact of the primary care model deployed by CSFS in the many rural and remote First Nations communities under its purview. These locales are challenged by geography, high client need, a dearth of physicians, and a higher than average proportion of patients with complex care issues. In 2010, CSFS sought to provide high quality, sustainable primary care services for its people, and have since developed a service model that combines in-person visits and telehealth appointments provided within a fully equipped clinic, an EMR, IT equipment, and administrative support.

The authors of the study found that “telehealth improved continuity of care by increasing access to care and reducing the need for travel and associated costs.” Patient experiences of telehealth care were evaluated and found to be influenced by the availability of telehealth services at the patient’s primary care home. This suggests that the benefits of telehealth increase in association with face-to-face visits and where a relationship exists between the patient and a specific physician and primary care home.

Read the full study now