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COVID-19 has created innumerable challenges for primary care providers. For most of us, delivering health care during the pandemic has meant adapting to new technology and a constant state of uncertainty about our capacity to make the right treatment decisions.
Supporting our patients through their struggles with mental health has never been more important. The potential challenges of managing financial worries, unemployment, child-care, care for older adults, isolation and uncertainty can take a toll. We are seeing concerning rates of anxiety at all ages. The use of alcohol and other substances has increased substantially and opioid overdose rates have surpassed those of 2017. For people with chronic pain, the combination of stress along with closures of exercise facilities, and lack of access to physical therapies has been extremely difficult.
All of this is happening while we feel less able to connect to our patients to offer direct support. Fortunately, online resources can help people manage their conditions at home.
Self-management programs address the fact that patients spend only a tiny amount of time with healthcare providers, but 100% of the time with themselves. Professionals are experts about diseases and treatments, but patients are experts about their own lives.
Developing tools and strategies for self-management is one of the most important things a person with a chronic condition can do.
To help clinicians enable this fundamental change, many agencies have modified their services to include virtual groups and online programs. Examples of these types of programs include:
Other excellent online resources related to mental health include:
Consider sharing our checklist of patient resources for managing chronic pain and mood issues. Use this fillable pdf to prescribe self-management tools, online counselling and peer support, apps, videos, books, and worksheets to your patients. Capitalize on the features of your EMR to allow you to easily access patient handouts during virtual consults.
It is important to recognize that these supports do not work for everyone. One of the biggest limitations is that not everyone has access to the necessary technology or data. At the same time, as we progress slowly through stages of re-opening, the medical community is still practicing “virtual first” to protect our patients and staff.
The Opioids Clinical Primer is integrated with the suite of programs collectively described as Ontario Pain Management Resources: a partnership to help clinicians support their patients. Developed by clinicians for clinicians, the Primer has two streams, Managing Opioid Use Disorder and Managing Chronic Pain. The six courses comprise 10 hours of free accredited CPD (both College of Family Physicians of Canada Mainpro+ and The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Section 1). The program was developed in collaboration with Ontario’s six medical schools and is funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-term Care.
 (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 2020)
 (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2020)
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