How virtual medical diagnosis could be valuable for long-term care home residents

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

New U of T-based paper on reducing avoidable COVID-19 hospitalizations

Original author: Safa Ahmad

Published: September 13, 2020


Hospital admissions are a crucial part of pandemic planning for long term care (LTC) home residents. They are a potential hotspot for COVID-19 transmission, and admitted residents may carry the virus back to their LTC facilities. In May, federal government data indicated that residents of LTC homes accounted for over 80 per cent of all Canadian COVID-19 deaths.

In a recent paper addressing this issue, University of Toronto researchers have suggested that the key to better health care for people in LTC homes might be to diagnose their problems virtually.

Using data from over 200,000 GTA-based hospital admissions over the last nine years, U of T and St. Michael’s College’s Li Ka Shing Institute researcher Dr. Fahad Razak and his colleagues modelled the resources that would be required to achieve a hypothetical elimination of potentially avoidable LTC-to-hospital transfers.

The upshot was not only a reduced risk of viral transmission during the pandemic, but also greater hospital resource availability for those who need it.

Razak spoke to The Varsity about the paper and the team’s findings.

The severity of the LTC home health care problem

While the population of older adults living in LTC homes has developed more complex needs over the last decades, a provincial strategy to keep up with these needs has stuttered, according to a policy briefing by the Royal Society of Canada.

In June, the society tasked an LTC working group with identifying specific problems and proposing solutions to address this.

The briefing described that LTC home workforce standards have not kept up with the growing needs of the population, and have even declined. Restructuring the workforce would require better governance to improve funding and direct it toward hiring, training, benefits, mental health care, and related areas.