Island Health expands innovative virtual palliative care

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Island Health has launched an innovative program that transcends geographical boundaries to bring comfort and support right to the homes of patients battling progressive life-limiting conditions.

Complementing the robust in-person palliative care supports that Island Health offers, Virtual Palliative Supportive Care (VPSC) is extending its reach to the whole of Island Health residents including in remote regions and setting a new standard for accessibility and compassion in healthcare.

VPSC is a significant advancement, particularly for patients that would like to stay in their home, with loved ones, for end-of-life care. The program leverages the power of telephone calls, virtual visits, and interviews on a computer tablet, enabling patients to maintain close contact with their dedicated care teams from the comfort of their homes, no matter where they live in the Island Health region. This program is free and the necessary equipment, such as computer tablets, is loaned at no cost.

“There aren’t words to fully convey the depth of my gratitude. When people take care of you, it goes beyond language – it’s a feeling, a warmth, an immeasurable comfort. I’m just profoundly thankful for the care they’ve given me,” said client Heather Barber about her experience with VPSC.

VPSC is a beacon of hope for those with progressive, life-limiting conditions, like Barber. Diagnosed with lung cancer, she feared being overwhelmed by pain. Thankfully, her oncologist introduced her to palliative care.

“After surgeries and treatments, I found myself facing palliative care. VPSC is a lifeline for me,” she said.

Clients are eligible for VPSC if they have a progressive, life-limiting condition that is palliative in nature. Within the program, individuals grappling with a life-limiting condition receive monitoring, coaching, support and education.

“Education is power,” said Pam Rasmussen, Island Health Community Virtual Care manager. “The more support and education we can provide clients about their disease, the better they can navigate their health-care journey.”

“We provide essential support to our clients regardless of where they live, including the remote regions of Vancouver Island and the surrounding Gulf Islands, where individuals have historically faced challenges in accessing palliative and supportive care,” said Lisa Jobe, Island Health Community Virtual Care and Seniors Health lead.

“This commitment has significantly expanded the range of options available to our clients.” Barber expressed deep gratitude for the convenience that this program affords her. “They tailored a care plan just for me, and the beauty of it is I can be part of it right from the comfort of my own home. No more constant travel. A nurse checks in weekly, discussing pain, swelling, and even mundane things, like decorations. It’s truly wonderful.”

VPSC revolves around four pivotal goals: enhancing quality of life, increasing knowledge, assisting in end-of-life planning, and curbing unexpected acute care visits. The program equips clients with essential knowledge about their health status, supports informed decision-making, and fosters meaningful conversations about advanced care planning, symptom management, medication regimens, and dietary guidance. The program also actively engages with and liaises with other crucial members of clients’ healthcare teams, such as their physician and nurse practitioner.

Barber said the program’s support goes beyond her needs, reaching out to support her family as well.

“Palliative care doesn’t just take care of me; they take care of my family too. When my husband had a couple of concerns, they had a nurse educate and support us.”

The Community Virtual Care (CVC) team, which leads the VPSC program, is a dedicated, multidisciplinary team available seven days a week, and includes full-time Registered Nurses (RNs), Pharmacists, Diabetes Nurse Educators, Registered Dietitians, and Social Workers.

Barber extends her heartfelt gratitude to the CVC team,

“Thank you for making my journey incredibly worthwhile and easy. There truly aren’t enough words to express how exceptional you all are.”


About VPSC:

VPSC was launched in April 2022 and has supported over 500 patients to date. The program continues to grow. Serving as a key component within Island Health’s suite of virtual care services, VPSC aligns with the organization’s dedicated focus on expanding virtual programs in community space.

Accessing the program is easy. Clients can self-refer or be referred by health-care professionals or family members by contacting their local Island Health Community Access office. The care team collaborates with each eligible client to create a personalized care plan.

For more information about the program, please email [email protected].

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