Greater Sudbury – Health Sciences North launched its Virtual Emergency Department this week, a first for a hospital in Northern Ontario.
HSN’s Virtual ED service is available Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Patients with non-life threatening conditions can log onto www.hsnsudbury.ca/virtualed and fill out a form requesting a same-day appointment, in French or English, with an Emergency Department physician. Patients will be contacted by a nurse within an hour of submitting their request form to have their situation assessed. A time for a video appointment with a physician will then be confirmed if appropriate, or the patient may be advised to come to the Emergency Department for a visit in person if necessary.
“We’re so happy to be able to offer this service, especially since we saw some hesitancy for some patients to come to the ED during the first wave of COVID-19,” said Dr. Rob Lepage, Medical Director for HSN’s Emergency Department, who’s also an ED physician. “We’ve seen our patient volumes spike in the second wave with a lot of overcrowding, so this should help our space issues and maintain physical distancing in the department if there’s a sudden surge of patients.”
The service is targeted towards people living in the area who would normally visit HSN’s Emergency Department. The Virtual ED has capacity to see up to 32 patients per day and is on a first-come, first served basis. Once these spaces have been filled, additional patients looking to access the Virtual ED will be directed to visit HSN’s Emergency Department in person.
Patients will require secure internet access and a working computer or smartphone to access HSN’s Virtual ED, which is one of several virtual services at HSN run through the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN).
“Using OTN for our Virtual ED means we can offer quality care in a convenient, safe and secure way, right from the comfort of the patient’s home,” said Dr. Renee Anne Montpellier, an ED physician at HSN and one of the leads for the Virtual ED project. “It allows for greater access to timely care for patients who have mobility issues, or limited access to care due to where they live.”
Patients who have a primary healthcare provider such as a family physician or nurse practitioner, are encouraged to attempt to access their services first before accessing the Virtual ED. The Virtual ED does not accept patients under the age of 12 months, or anyone with serious or life threatening medical issues. For healthcare emergencies, patients should contact 911 or come directly to the Emergency Department.
The Ministry of Health has provided $250,000 in funding to help launch HSN’s Virtual ED as a way to improve access to care for patients of Northeastern Ontario.