SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Pat Romanski, Sematext Blog, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Jason Bloomberg

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Online End-Of-Life Care Proves Itself: 10 Years of Canadian Virtual Hospice

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA -- (Marketwired) -- 02/18/14 -- "Make a difference," says the sign on the door at Canadian Virtual Hospice. And the pioneering Canadian website is doing just that. In the ten years since it was launched, health care and people's expectations of it have changed, and Virtual Hospice has been part of it, in Canada and globally. It continues to grow to meet the growing need.

"Originally we starting thinking about building a website on palliative care, because we knew Canadians everywhere needed end-of-life support and resources. But in this large country, those resources were patchwork at best, and usually just didn't exist," says Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov, Virtual Hospice Chair and Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care.

Virtual Hospice was the first website of its kind to provide Canadians with direct online access to a specialized health team. Chochinov remembers that, "Our main concern was whether computers and the internet were too impersonal for the incredibly sensitive areas of advanced illness, dying, death and grief. What we learned is that online communication can be intensely personal, and people sometimes reach out more easily if they can do it anonymously."

The response from across the country and the world is evidence that this approach is making a difference, and that people everywhere are looking for this kind of information and support. The site welcomes between 1500 and 2000 visitors a day. One third are from Canada, a quarter from the US, others are from Europe, Africa and India. More than a third of visitors access the French version of the site.

In the last 10 years, Virtual Hospice's clinical team has answered almost 2,000 questions from Canadians - patients, families and the health providers who care for them. Those answers are not just a service for those in need. They also drive expansion of the site. The types of questions are a window into Canadians' concerns. New information is added to the site to meet those concerns. Ten new articles, features and ten new videos have been posted to mark this 10th anniversary.

Executive Director Shelly Cory says, "The clinical team pioneered the intricacies of online communication with patients and families and found themselves interacting with a growing number of health providers looking for support with complex cases."

When many health care professionals and organizations were shying away and even blocking new channels of communication, Virtual Hospice embraced Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Cory notes, "By the time "tweet" was human communication and "like" became a button, we had already cut our teeth on online communication. Embracing Web 2.0 was a natural step - it's where people were and it's redefined how we connect with Canadians."

"With Virtual Hospice, imagination is the rate limiting factor. If there is a gap we fill it, if there's an unmet need we see how to best address it. We are constantly looking for better ways to provide Canadian with the information and support they need to make the best of the rest of their lives," says Dr. Chochinov.

Contacts:
Canadian Virtual Hospice
Shelly Cory
Executive Director
204.223.3596 (cell)

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