Health Sciences North’s Emergency Department is now offering virtual care. This means that we will be using video and audio technologies for some patient visits rather than asking all patients to come into our Emergency Department.
Some health concerns can be addressed with virtual care alone, but in some cases you may need to go to a hospital or other healthcare facility for a physical examination.
Virtual care is defined as any service delivery that is done virtually (i.e. not in person), in any of the following ways:
- By videoconferencing using the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN)
- By telephone
Safety and Identification
- When you are meeting with your healthcare provider, you will be asked to provide your full name, and one of the two following; date of birth or health card number with version code.
- If you or your healthcare provider becomes aware of any risks to your safety or the safety of someone else prior to a virtual visit, we will cancel the virtual visit and direct you to go your local Crisis Intervention Program or Emergency Department.
- If the healthcare provider determines that a virtual visit is not appropriate, further options will be provided. This may include in-person visits, or referral to another program.
- Patients must participate respectfully during the session, (i.e. free of background distractions and dressed as if attending a session in-person). Patients cannot join virtual sessions from a public setting (i.e. coffee shop, library, etc.).
- You must be physically located within the City of Greater Sudbury during your virtual visit. This is important for your safety, in the event your healthcare provider needs to connect you with emergency or Crisis Services.
- Any information shared with your healthcare provider during your virtual visit about your treatment, health and/or safety will be documented in your electronic health record.
Risks and Benefits
There are potential risks and benefits to using email as well as participating in sessions virtually. Please review the following to understand these better.
- Healthcare providers have no control over the patient’s environment (others in the patient’s environment that can overhear your conversation); this can lead to possible breaches in confidentiality and privacy.
- The sudden dropping of the internet connection.
- Having poor video or audio quality at any given time (having multiple users on personal internet may lead to poor video/audio quality).
- Confidentiality; virtual platforms are never as secure as in-person appointments. Emails can be intercepted by others if using a shared email account or can be intercepted by malware.
- Lack of internet access/access to needed technology can create barriers to communication if/when using email as a method of contact.
- Convenience; email is accessible from anywhere, provided there is internet access and privacy.
- Reduced risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- Time saving; you do not need to leave your home or office in order to receive care and no time is spent travelling to your appointment.
We do our best to make sure that any information you give to us during virtual visits is private and secure, but no video or audio tools are ever completely secure. There is an increased security risk that your health information may be intercepted or disclosed to third parties when using video or audio communication tools.
To help us keep your information safe and secure, you can do the following:
- Understand that emails, calls or texts you receive are not secure in the same way as a private appointment in an exam room.
- Use a private computer/device, secure accounts and a secure Internet connection. For example, using a personal and encrypted email account is more secure than using an unencrypted email account, and your access to the Internet on your home network will generally be more secure than an open guest Wi-Fi connection.
You should also understand that electronic communication is not a substitute for in-person communication or clinical examinations, or for attending the Emergency Department when needed (including for any urgent care that may be required).
If you are concerned about using video or audio tools for virtual care, you should contact your primary healthcare provider or attend the Emergency Department in person.
A backup plan will be established with you at the beginning of each session (i.e. phone number where you can be reached) to restart or reschedule the session, in the event of a technical problem.
You may receive some correspondence by email from your healthcare provider. Unless directed by your healthcare provider, the use of email to deliver personal health information or to seek urgent care is strictly prohibited.
By providing your information, you agree to let us collect, use or disclose your personal health information through video or audio communications (while following applicable privacy laws) in order to provide you with care.
All privacy violations will be reported to our Chief Privacy Officer, who may be required to conduct investigations, report incidents to the Information and Privacy Commissioner and may be required to take additional actions.