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A thorough patient assessment is required when providing virtual care

November 16, 2022
Considerations when using the telephone or other technology to perform restricted activities.

As per the Standards of Practice for Virtual Care (SPVC), the provision of restricted activities and professional services using enabling technology is always considered virtual care. Enabling technology is defined as any technology that permits communication between individuals in different locations, including through teleconferencing, video conferencing, email, or other internet-hosted service or application. This would include any telephone calls where patient care is provided by the pharmacist in relation to a professional service or restricted activity.

The SPVC requires that the regulated members who provide virtual care must meet the requirements of all applicable legislation, standards, and guidelines for in-person care. Providing care via enabling technology necessitates additional considerations to complete a thorough patient assessment and provide safe, effective, and person-centred care.

For example, when conducting virtual care over the phone, the pharmacist must take extra measures to address the fact that the pharmacist and the patient cannot view each other using this technology. This includes verifying roles and identities, ensuring privacy, and obtaining informed consent.

The following are some of the requirements from the SPVC you must meet once you confirm that it is appropriate to provide virtual care over the telephone:

  1. Identify yourself and your role – Just as all pharmacy team members are required to wear a name tag in the pharmacy, it is required to identify who you are and what your role is to build trust with the patient and to help them understand the scope of services you can provide them. Each time a regulated member provides virtual care to a patient, they must identify themselves to the patient by providing their name, practice location, and professional role. Establishing and maintaining a professional relationship with your patient is crucial to safe and effective pharmacy practice.
  2. Confirm the identity of the patient – It is always required to verify a patient’s identity. In the case of providing care over the phone when you are not able to see the patient, you may ask them to provide their full name and/or birth date to confirm you are speaking to the intended person.
  3. Ensure the patient is in a private setting – Before providing care, the regulated member must confirm that the patient is in a physical setting that is appropriate and sufficiently private to receive virtual care.
  4. Obtain and document informed consent to receive care virtually – Health professionals must provide patients with enough information to make an informed decision to ensure patients can consent to receiving care virtually. For example, the first time patients receive virtual care using an enabling device like the telephone, the pharmacists can ask: “Are you okay if we discuss some of your personal health information over the phone?” This consent would then only need to be given again if a different enabling device is used or if the existing enabling device was to change in a significant way. This consent must also be documented in the patient record.
  5. Provide the patient with contact information for follow up – The pharmacist must ensure there is a plan in place to manage adverse events or emergencies and ensure that the patient is aware of how they may contact the pharmacy to follow up. In addition to the above, regulated members should review the SPVC in their entirety to ensure compliance with the standards.

As per the SPVC, the pharmacy must develop clear and comprehensive written standard operating procedures for all enabling technologies used before offering virtual care. These procedures should outline specific processes to protect patients and to ensure the provision of effective, person-centred care.