2020 News

A bright light in a dark time: How investments in research are helping VHA innovate

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By VHA
Sandra McKay

As we continue to grapple with COVID-19’s second wave, one positive outcome of the uncertainty we have all faced throughout the pandemic has been the rapid acceleration and funding of COVID-related research across Canada and around the world. Health care partners have banded together to provide care in their communities and have joined forces to seek solutions through research.

This race to gather information and look for answers has removed many of the usual barriers and bureaucratic obstacles for research projects. Since April, the Canadian government has invested more than $109M in grants for COVID-19 research and VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) is now involved in many important projects as a result of this funding opportunity.

“If there are bright spots in these perilous times, this is certainly one of them,” said Carol Annett, President and CEO of VHA.

 “Substantial investments are being made in high-quality and promising research, projects are moving forward quickly, and partners are coming together to look for innovative and collaborative solutions.”

VHA’s existing strong partnerships have allowed for quick action as projects have been developed. 

“We have been able to leverage our strengths and those of many ongoing partners,” said Sandra McKay, Director of Research at VHA. 

“This has allowed us to act quickly to put teams together and submit applications for a number of interesting grants. The many projects we are now part of has reinforced the crucial role of home care during the pandemic,” Sandra added. 

The projects range in focus, with some studying new methods of providing care that have quickly developed during the pandemic, such as virtual care, while others are examining opportunities for addressing social isolation during COVID-19. Other studies are exploring the ways different populations have been affected and issues impacting health care workers during the pandemic.

“Personal Support Workers (PSWs) do daily, important, heroic work and play a critical role in our health and social care system,” Sandra noted. “It is important that we understand the impact COVID-19 is having, both in terms of the overall PSW labour supply as well as the effect of repeated use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

With numerous new research projects underway since the start of the pandemic, VHA anticipates this research will help guide practices to continue to make care as safe as possible for staff and service providers and for clients and families and will help inform advancements in home care today and in a post-pandemic world.

As Carol notes, “I’m sure that what we learn through these projects will ultimately transform the face of home care.”

Here are some of the COVID-related research projects VHA is currently involved in:

Virtual Care in the COVID-19 Era: Equity Concerns; partnership with Women’s College Hospital

This project explores challenges and best practices in enabling access to, uptake of and engagement with virtual care in home care and other care contexts for individuals in undeserved communities. The project will describe barriers and facilitators to equity-focused virtual care and will provide recommendations on technology and program elements required to enhance equity in delivery of virtual care.

COVID-19 Resilience Enhancement with Social Training (CREST): Elucidating the Role of Social Factors in Motivating Collaborative Exercise; partnership with Centre for Healthcare Engineering, University of Toronto

This project will help us understand how combining social collaboration with the latest technology can improve healthcare outcomes by motivating more exercise in those who need it. This is a unique opportunity to evaluate how well physically remote social collaboration through exercise can not only improve healthcare outcomes but also reduce social isolation and increase resilience in our clients, who live at home and often find it difficult to take part in ‘in-person’ collaborative exercise programs.

Ryerson University Fast Funding for COVID-19 Science – The impact of COVID-19 on Paediatric homecare practices for children with medical complexity: Policy recommendations and practice guidelines; partnership with Ryerson University & SickKids Hospital

We are conducting a study to better understand the impact COVID-19 has had on paediatric home healthcare services for children with rare diseases and/or complex care needs and provide meaningful real-time information to inform paediatric home healthcare policy recommendations and practice guidelines.

Centre for Research Expertise in Occupation Disease (CREOD) – Home care PSW Attitudes towards working during the COVID-19 pandemic: A Qualitative Study; partnership with University of Toronto

The experiences of PSWs working in home care during the COVID-19 pandemic are not well understood. We believe it is important that we understand more about the experiences of PSWs working during the COVID-19 pandemic so that we can better support them in their role. Specifically, we are interested in learning more about PSWs’ attitudes, motivations, challenges and how supported they feel during this time.

Ryerson Masters in Community Health Management program capstone project: Evaluation of VHA’s crisis response to COVID-19

Using the Observe, Orient, Decide and Act (OODA)decision-making model and working closely with key members of VHA’s Incident Command Team (ICT), this project will review and summarize the activities of key working groups and the impact on point-of-care staff. A final report will be presented to the VHA senior management team to inform future pandemic response.

Centre for Research Expertise in Occupation Disease (CREOD) – Factors influencing Facial Protective Equipment use by Homecare Workers during the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic; partnership with University of Toronto

Literature review and questionnaire development to provide the evidence-based foundation for ongoing work in this important area of study where we will examine the use of facial protective equipment by home care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Labour supply during a pandemic, particularly of PSWs; VHA study

This study seeks to describe and examine how COVID-19 has impacted PSWs providing homecare and clients receiving home care from VHA. This study will provide useful knowledge surrounding the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on PSWs and clients within a home care setting, and an improved understanding of how policy variables, including wage-related incentives, have impacted PSWs in home care.