Spinal Cord Injury and Virtual Support Options

Acute phase — rehab — living with spinal cord injury (SCI) in the community: these are the complex phases a person living with SCI typically goes through. The final and longest one relies on access to the valuable services and support needed to maintain quality of life.

“We need to build stronger capacities in the community where people with SCI and other complex needs can access trained and capable primary care family physicians within their own home,” says Peter Athanasopoulos, Senior Manager of Government Relations and Public Policy at Spinal Cord Injury Ontario (SCIO), in a panel presentation with three other subject matter experts titled Improving Spinal Care for People with Spinal Cord Injury.

SCIO engaged its members and the public in a series of surveys to capture what the community feels should be the top priorities for the SCI patient journey. Among these priorities was the need for technology to improve communication between patients and their doctor to make sure the health care team has up-to-date information on SCI research and care and making community services accessible remotely.

“To bridge that gap from having people travel long distances as well as being able to access services closer to home, the community felt there needs to be a stronger network, somewhere where specialists and family physicians can be more connected and the person with SCI and family can have better ability of accessing specialists on the spot rather than waiting on very long wait lists,” says Athanasopoulos.

With these priorities in mind, how can we help meet the challenge of improving access to primary care for people with SCI? Providing support for primary care physicians, a physician engagement network and accessible rooms and equipment would help the patient life-long journey of living with the condition. Establishing physical mobility clinics throughout Ontario with virtual support options would also help address existing gaps by increasing access to care in a timely manner and eliminating barriers (i.e. time, travel, accessibility, etc.) Primary care providers can assess new concerns or follow up on existing ones using virtual visits as a solution to connect with patients, and eConsult to connect with specialists.