SCI Ontario Virtual Care Solution
1. What is the purpose of the study?

The study title is “The Evaluation of a Virtual Care Solution Designed to Deliver Better Coordinated and Integrated Care, in Local Primary Care and Community Sector Settings, to Patients with Spinal Cord Injury.” When individuals with spinal cord injuries can’t get the care and support they need from their family doctor, family health team or from the community, they might go to their rehab hospital or local emergency department. These are very costly healthcare options. Trips are time-consuming for patients and their families. The purpose of this study is to test and evaluate a new way to deliver healthcare and community-based support services to clients with spinal cord injuries or other mobility disabilities (from their own homes). This solution will be tested with a small group of SCI Ontario clients, and evaluate how they use a virtual care solution to access healthcare and community support services and communicate with clinical and non-clinical care providers.

2. Why is this study important?

There are an estimated 33,000 people currently living with a spinal cord injury in Ontario, and about 86,000 in Canada. The estimated annual economic cost of traumatic spinal cord injuries in Canada is $2.67B. The platform was developed to address the barriers that prevent many of these clients from accessing healthcare and community services. The goal of this study is to provide patients with quicker access to appropriate clinical and community-based supports, tools and education they need to live healthy and more productive lives.

3. Who is funding this study?

The project is funded by the Ministry of Health under the Office of the Chief Innovation Officer of Ontario. The Government of Ontario is investing in innovative health technologies that help people receive care at home. This project is one of many funded by the Ministry of Health to develop and implement new ways to deliver better health services to people across the province.

4. What are the objectives of the study?

SCI Ontario is mandated to provide support and services to clients with a spinal cord injury or other mobility disabilities. Their services and support start from time of discharge from acute care, through to rehab and the transition back into the community. The goal of this study is to improve patient care and access to information and community-based services for clients with spinal cord injuries or other mobility disabilities. The objectives of this study are to:

  1. Assess patterns and trends in how SCI Ontario clients use the virtual care solution.
  2. Assess clients’ level of satisfaction with the virtual care solution.
  3. Assess clients’ health outcomes and their use of community support services as compared to clients receiving usual (in-clinic) care.
  4. Determine cost-savings to the healthcare system when SCI Ontario clients receive virtual care as compared to usual (in-clinic) care

5. Who will conduct the study and what will they do?

The research project team is led by Dr. Cathy Craven, a physiatrist and clinician scientist at the Toronto Rehab Institute. A team of leading academic researchers from the University Health Network will study and evaluate all aspects of the use of a virtual care solution. Areas of interest include health quality outcomes, community and health systems level improvments, cost and impact of using technology to deliver care. The findings from this study will be compared to how we currently support and deliver services to people with spinal cord injuries and mobility disabilities (i.e. usual or in-clinic care). To determine the findings, the researchers will follow very specific guidelines to assess patient satisfaction, quality of life and cost savings. These guidelines help to ensure that the findings will be accurate and reflect the true results of the study.

6. What is a Virtual Care Solution and what does this mean?

The term “Virtual Care Solution” refers to using the internet or communications technology to deliver health support, education and treatment to patients. The technology is delivered through a desktop or laptop computer, a tablet device (e.g. iPad) or a smartphone (e.g. iPhone or any other phone with internet access). Virtual care is delivered from a physician or another healthcare provider to a patient using technology. Virtual care solutions include technology that delivers personal video-based consultations, remote monitoring, communication and information exchange between a healthcare professional and his/her patient.

7. What are the benefits of virtual care solutions?

Research has shown that health services delivery using technology is efficient and cost-effective. This approach will also help more patients get better and faster access to healthcare and community-based services, especially those living in rural/remote areas across the province.

8. What is the Virtual Integrated Platform for Spinal Cord Injury (VIP 4 SCI) Solution?

The technology is a computer and mobile (tablet and smartphone) applications to support the delivery of services to SCI Ontario clients from rehab to primary care and to community-based services and support. The product works like a website, and It was developed specifically to address the challenges faced by individuals with spinal cord injuries and supporting organizations in delivering care to patients across Ontario. Virtual visits will reduce the need to make in-person appointments with a family doctor or specialist – which can often take weeks or months, and may also involve long and difficult trips. The project for patients with spinal cord injuries will start with a group of 50 patients, located across the province. They and their families will be able to contact experienced physicians, clinicians and social services providers online when they have medical or everyday issues. The project will evaluate how SCI clients use a virtual care solution to access support and health care services from home. We anticipate that this solution will help more patients get better and faster access to healthcare and community-based services, at reduced cost than usual (i.e. in-clinic) care. Study participants can access the site through a desktop or laptop computer, a tablet (e.g. iPad) or a smartphone (Apple or Samsung). In addition to video-conferencing, other features include: email for messages, calendars for scheduling events, journals for notes and tools for tracking medications and setting goals, from the comfort of their own homes.

9. How will the ViP 4 SCI Solution help your heatlh care provider?

This solution will help healthcare practitioners improve care for their at-risk patients via live video-based consultations for one-on-one interactions.
Other purposes include tools to:

  • Manage appointment scheduling via reminders (dates, times, check-lists, medication, etc.)
  • Reduce unnecessary travel for individuals with SCI via live peer-to-peer facilitated support groups
  • Help each patient conduct self-management assessments
  • Enhance access to educational resources and learning modules

10. Why was this tool developed?

There are an estimated 33,000 people currently living with a spinal cord injury in Ontario and about 86,000 in Canada. The estimated annual economic cost of traumatic spinal cord injuries in Canada is $2.67B. The platform was developed to address the barriers that prevent many of these clients from accessing services. These barriers include health management or mental health issues, travel and accessible transportation, lack of and/or access to local community resources; and the most common challenge is lack of primary care support - that is, a local family doctor or inter-professional family health team, experienced with spinal cord injuries or other mobility disabilities. Many clients who lack primary care support will instead return to their rehab hospital or the emergency department for clinical help. SCI Ontario clients need a simple, integrated tool that allows them to connect with appropriate clinical and/or non-clinical (i.e. community) supports from their own homes.

11. What information about me will be gathered?

We will gather your:

  • Name, location (collected as part of registration or in a Member’s Account Information)
  • Access Number (issued by researchers and clinical support teams)
  • Email address (collected and verified as part of registration or in a Member’s Account Information)
  • Date of birth (collected in My Profile)
  • Use and length of video-based consultations
  • Use of tools and assessment forms
Researchers will also gather information related to your use of the SCI Ontario virtual care solution.
This includes time spent using tools, like video-based consultations, journal entries, messages sent and use of medication tracking and goal setting tools. This data will help identify areas where the technology was used frequently and effectively by clients, healthcare and community service teams. Data will also be analyzed to assess clients’ health outcomes, use of community support services, satisfaction with the virtual care solution; and cost-savings to the healthcare system.

12. Who are the members of the Project & Research Teams?

Dr. Cathy Craven – Lead Researcher, Toronto Rehab Institute
Dr. Mark Bayley - Medical Director, Brain and Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Program, UHN-TRI
Dr. Jamie Milligan – Primary Care Physician – Centre for Family Medicine
Brian Chan – Researcher, Toronto Rehab Institute
Matheus Weist - Researcher, Toronto Rehab Institute
Sheila Casemore – Director, Client Services, SCI Ontario
Peter Athanasopoulos – Senior Manager, Government and Stakeholder Relations, SCI Ontario
Susan Willis - Project Manager and Provincial Intake Coordinator, SCI Ontario
Courtney Cole – CEO, ForaHealthyMe Inc.

13. What are the available features?

With the web and mobile platforms, new tools and capabilities allow clients to create virtual “circles of care.” Clients may connect with a Regional Services Coordinator, a Peer Support Coordinator, Dr. Jamie Milligan, the primary care physician participating in the project, and with peer support volunteers.
Features available in the platform include:

  • Secure, single sign-on access and email login
  • Personalized Dashboards to engage, communicate, and schedule events
  • Personal videoconferencing tools for one-on-one clinical interactions, virtual classroom participation and facilitated peer support groups
  • Goal Setting, Tracking and Reporting Tools
  • Medication Records and Tracking Tools
  • Email communication with healthcare and service delivery teams
  • Calendar and address book for electronic scheduling
  • Journal for tracking and recording questions and health events between visits
As with all web and mobile applications, there are terms of use, rules and protocols governing its use. Users will be introduced to this new product and the various features will be explained to them.

14. This site says, Powered by ForaHealthyMe. What is ForaHealthyMe?

The platform and all mobile applications were designed and developed by ForaHealthyMe Inc., a registered corporation based in Markham, ON, Canada. The company delivers Digital, Virtual and Artificial Intelligence Simulation technologies to treat and manage patients with complex chronic, acute and mental health care issues.

The company is a partner on the project.
The company has a prolific history of working with large health and educational systems. Over the years, ForaHealthyMe Inc. has built collaborative partnerships with healthcare institutions, including Southlake Regional Health Centre, St. Michael’s and Markham Stouffville Hospitals in Canada; and the Buffalo Medical Centre in the USA; and academic institutions, such as York University.

In partnership with St. Michael's Hospital and York University, research and validation work was conducted in the areas of Chronic Kidney Disease and Peripheral Arterial Disease.

In partnership with York University, the company was a co-recipient of a national grant to develop a virtual mental health clinic with two key elements: online assessments for Stress, Anxiety & Depression, and peer-to-peer online support groups for students.

15. Is my information secure on this application?

Spinal Cord Injury Ontario respects your privacy. We protect your personal information and adhere to all legislative requirements with respect to protecting privacy. We will not rent, sell or trade your personal information. The information you provide to us will be used to deliver services and to keep you informed and up-to-date on the activities of Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. The information we collect from you is protected under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).

ForaHealthyMe Inc. is a Microsoft partner, and it stores all its data and assets on Microsoft Azure. Azure is a cloud computing platform that helps secure data, protects data privacy and support compliance with global standards. ForaHealthyMe Inc. uses Azure to manage all applications, data content, virtual machines, access credentials, and comply with regulatory requirements applicable to Canadian privacy laws, including the seven foundational principles Privacy by Design (PbD) document laid out under the Information Privacy Commission of Ontario.

Information on Microsoft Azure, its security and privacy framework can be found at the Microsoft Trust Center.

See the Privacy Policy for more information.

16. Who manages the Platform?

The platform is managed by ForaHealthyMe Inc. Technical team. Email: Support@forahealthyme.com

The administrator ensures that data provided during sign-up, such as your name, address, phone number, and email address are used to provide technical support and to manage your account, events, security or other technical issues.

17. Will there be training on how to use this platform?

Study participants will have access to information, and receive training and education sessions from the Regional Services Co-ordinator, the Project Manager and the ForaHealthyMe technical team. These sessions will be available on a scheduled basis.

18. What if I want to leave the study before completion?

If you wish to leave the study before it is completed, please discuss your decision and reasons with the Project Manager.

19. Where do I go for additional information?

For additional information on the study, please speak with your Regional Services Coordinator. You may also speak with the Provincial Intake Coordinator, Susan Willis.
Email: Susan.Willis@sciontario.org

Center for Family Medicine
Contact: Matt Smith
Email : matt.smith@family-medicine.ca

For Technical Support, contact ForaHealthyMe Inc. Technical team.
Email: Support@forahealthyme.com