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New guidelines for virtual care

July 7, 2021

Council approves new guidelines.

ACP has published new guidelines for Providing virtual care to patients to guide regulated members as they consider adopting technologies that may help them remotely meet the needs of their patients. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the development of new technologies, combined with changing patient preferences and expectations, led to an increase in the availability and use of virtual technologies to provide care to patients. The pandemic has accelerated this process as the need to provide care to patients remotely has become more important than ever.

Virtual care is simply patient care that uses an enabling technology to assist regulated members provide pharmacy services to their patients. Nothing in these guidelines changes any of the requirements of the Standards of Practice for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians, nor do they change the regulated member’s responsibilities to those standards. However, the enabling technologies provide an experience that may differ significantly from what regulated members and patients are used to. These guidelines assist regulated members consider how to apply the standards when providing patient care virtually.

It is important to note that this is a rapidly changing area of pharmacy practice and these guidelines should be considered a starting point for regulated members. ACP will continue to monitor trends, and the concept of virtual care will be reviewed continually as we move into the future.

Key considerations for virtual care

Professional relationships

Developing and maintaining a professional relationship with a patient is critical before any pharmacy service is provided under any circumstances and virtual care is no exception. Regulated members need to use the guidelines to consider what this looks like in a virtual setting and how they can best establish and maintain these relationships when using these technologies.

Privacy

While the overall requirements and expectations to ensure privacy remain the same regardless of how care is provided, the risks to patient privacy and confidentiality are substantively different when using an enabling technology as compared to providing in-person care. Regulated members can use the guidelines as a starting point to evaluate and understand the risks and challenges of using virtual care and to ensure that the privacy of the patient is always maintained.

Consent

Virtual care can be a very different experience from what the patient is used to. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that regulated members explain the risks and limitations of using virtual care before providing pharmacy services in that way. Virtual care should only be provided after informed consent has been obtained.

Assessment

Technology has its limitations and there will be times when an in-person visit is required. Regulated members need to critically evaluate each situation and determine if they can adequately assess the patient virtually using an enabling technology. If the regulated member determines that they cannot complete their assessment or provide adequate care virtually, they may need to see the patient in person or otherwise assist them in obtaining the care they require.


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