June 08, 2020

Family physicians in BC noticed a concerning trend with the onset of COVID-19 restrictions. Many British Columbians were not aware that family physicians continued to provide medical care for patients by telephone and telehealth, and were not seeking the care they needed.

Doctors of BC worked with GPSC and the Divisions of Family Practice on provincial and regional campaigns encouraging patients to see their family doctors, many of whom are using virtual care to connect with patients. The campaign, Need Care? Call your Doctor, reached over 300,000 British Columbians on social media, and resulted in about 40 media articles around the province, including front-page stories in newspapers like the Times-Colonist in Victoria.

Once the awareness was raised, the over-riding question for patients continued to be: How do I know if my family doctor is providing care virtually? To address this, GPSC is playing a leadership role working with Pathways to create the public Pathways BC Virtual Care Directory, which helps patients access their family doctors virtually. It’s an online tool for patients to look up their doctors and find out how best to connect with them for virtual care. People without a family doctor can enter their community name into the Directory to find information on local walk in clinics, and on any practices accepting new patients.

Many divisions across the province are now actively recruiting physicians to join the directory. Several divisions – Cowichan Valley, South Okanagan-Similkameen, Victoria, South Island, and Rural and Remote Hazelton – recruited enough doctors so that they could publicly launch the directory through their local media. Many other divisions are preparing to do their announcements in the next little while.

Some of the media coverage included:

The Pathways BC Virtual Care Directory also features practical patient resource materials about COVID-19. A team of physicians reviews the Pathways COVID-19 content weekly to ensure it’s up to date. The materials range from tips for parenting during COVID-19 to cleaning your home to dealing with anxiety.

In addition, Pathways features the Community Service Directory, www.pathwaysbc.ca/community, where people can find listings of local programs on over 30 topics including addictions, caregiver support, First Nations services, LGBT2Q+ supports, maternity care, mental health supports, seniors services, and wellness support. A robust search and filter function helps users to quickly find the most appropriate services for their query.

How you can get involved:

We encourage physicians to sign up for their directory listing. All you need to do is fill out this short online form. The more physicians are in the directory, the more useful it will be for patients and the public, the more it will be used by the public, and the higher it will rank in search engine results.

Divisions that are ready to announce the Pathways Virtual Care Directory in your regions, please connect with Jennifer Killam in our communications department (jkillam@doctorsofbc.ca) for support in preparing materials and with Michelle Briere (mbriere@pathwaysbc.ca) for support with the Pathways Directory.

Do you have questions or comments on this article? E-mail us at gpscbc@doctorsofbc.ca