Dermatologist Dr. Rachel Asiniwasis knows first-hand how expensive it can be for some of her patients to access her services.
“Transportation and accommodation costs for patients from remote Indigenous communities to see an urban-based dermatologist can exceed $2,000,” she explained.
That’s one of the reasons why Dr. Asiniwasis, who holds dermatology outreach clinics in rural and remote areas in southern and northern areas of Saskatchewan, is researching the impact of virtual appointments as part of the Clinician Research Support Program (CRSP). She is one of the program’s four participants. Because of COVID restrictions, Dr. Asiniwasis was recently unable to travel in person to communities to provide care. With Dr. Asiniwasis vaccinated and COVID prevention protocols in place to protect her and her patients, she will be resuming clinics in northern Saskatchewan.
Dr. Asiniwasis is interested in documenting dermatological needs in Indigenous communities in western Canada, identifying impacts of COVID-19 on access to dermatology care and the extent to which virtual clinics can address those dermatology care needs in Saskatchewan’s Indigenous community.
“The results of this research project can help initiate discussion on effectiveness and potential of virtual clinics and tele-dermatological services in improving dermatology care and reducing healthcare costs in remote populations,” she noted.
Dr. Susan Petryk, a Regina-based pediatrician with a specialist interest in child development, is also researching the impact of virtual appointments on patient access. Her project is focusing on whether patient waitlists can be reduced by looking at education and training needs of healthcare workers to better enable them to provide virtual clinical assessments.
“The COVID-19 pandemic quickly earned the support to expand virtual video-enable appointments that could be delivered securely and directly into homes and the natural places that children live, play and learn,” explains Dr. Petryk, noting waitlists and the availability of specialists have an impact on access for mental health and developmental services for children. Those who live in rural or remote communities and those in poverty have additional challenges posed by lack of transportation, vast geographical distances and Canadian weather conditions.
“We want to seize this opportunity to study if and how virtual care can continue post-pandemic to provide what we have been striving towards for years; that is, more timely, equitably accessible, patient-centered, home/community-based healthcare.”
The CRSP is an exciting partnership between the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and College of Medicine Regina Campus that aims to assist new, Regina-based clinician researchers in achieving early successes.
New this year, Hospitals of Regina Foundation (HRF) has committed to sponsoring an additional two promising researchers.
“Research that aims to make a tangible difference in patient care in our community is a key priority for us,” says Dino Sophocleous, President and CEO, Hospitals of Regina Foundation.
“What began four years ago as a pilot project has evolved into an extremely effective program that supports innovative research from our future leaders. The SHA is proud to co-sponsor this initiative,” adds Dr. Elan Paluck, Director, Research, SHA.
Recipients of the 2021 CRPS grants are Drs. Rachel Asiniwasis (HRF-funded), Stephen Lee, Susan Petryk and Ibraheem Othman (HRF-funded).
Dr. Susan Petryk (left) and Dr. Rachel Asiniwasis.