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Virtual care pilot project taking place at Nova Scotia Health sites in Eastern Zone

SYDNEY, N.S. – A virtual care option is being tested at four emergency departments in Nova Scotia Health’s Eastern Zone.

The virtual urgent care service will be provided by a team of Nova Scotia Health staff and virtual nurses and physicians. It is being tested over the next few weeks in emergency departments at Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso, Guysborough Memorial Hospital, St. Mary’s Memorial Hospital in Sherbrooke, and Strait Richmond Hospital in Evanston.

Under the pilot project, patients with urgent, but non-life-threatening health matters could be treated virtually. Some examples of health concerns that could be seen by the virtual urgent service include coughs, colds, sprains, and urinary tract infections.

The aim of the service is to provide an additional care option for people to access and to reduce wait times for patients coming to the emergency departments with urgent but non-life-threatening conditions. It is already offered in many emergency departments across the province.

The virtual urgent service works with on-site physicians and staff. Patients coming to the emergency department would see an on-site triage nurse and register as usual. Patients are then assessed by the triage nurse and if their health matter is appropriate for virtual care, the patient is asked if they would like to see a virtual physician. 

If the patient consents, a visit is arranged in a separate room through an on-site computer tablet. Virtual physicians can order any tests or prescriptions (excluding controlled substances) the patient needs. Virtual care nurses may also provide support to the patient during and after the visit. Once the physician finishes the visit, on-site staff receive the physician’s orders. Staff then follow up with the patient to review results, provide any orders for tests or prescriptions, and ensure the patient understands any next steps before they are released/discharged. 

Patients who come to emergency departments and need further assessment or are not appropriate for virtual care will be treated by the on-site team. At sites where there is no physician on site, patients with emergency health matters should call 911 for care.

The pilot will be evaluated to determine if it is a care option that works for other sites and communities. 


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