Nurse Practitioner, Elizabeth Hobson, providing primary health care through VirtualCareNS

Nurse Practitioner, Elizabeth Hobson
Nurse Practitioner, Elizabeth Hobson

Throughout her nursing career, Elizabeth Hobson, nurse practitioner, has seen many Nova Scotians who were negatively impacted by not having a primary care provider.

Knowing how challenging this can be for a patient, she was excited about the opportunity to become a nurse practitioner with VirtualCareNS.

NP Hobson is now one of six nurse practitioners providing care through VirtualCareNS.

VirtualCareNS is a pilot program, launched by the Nova Scotia Health’s Innovation Hub, Primary Health Care team, IM/IT team, and other health system partners, that provides free, temporary access to primary health care for people on the Need a Family Practice Registry. Through VirtualCareNS, people on the registry can make a same-day virtual medical appointment to address their health care needs.

“I enjoy the opportunity to provide care to such a large, diverse group,” said NP Hobson. “We are able to provide care across the entire province and we can reach patients who would otherwise really struggle to access primary health care or wouldn’t access it at all.”

She has been working with VirtualCareNS for a year and says the impact the program is having on patients of all ages is incredible, and that working with such an appreciative group of patients is one of her favorite parts of the role.

“They're so thankful for the care they receive and they're so surprised with how well the service works,” she said. “They love how easy it is for them to access care during their workday. Even if they have to wait to be connected with a provider, it’s easy because they are able to wait from home or work.”

NP Hobson says another benefit of VirtualCareNS is that she can refer patients to be seen in-person for a physical exam. This is a defining feature of VirtualCareNS and a unique aspect of this program offered by Nova Scotia Health.

“I start with providing care online, but I can then refer patients for an in-person physical exam if needed. The patients are satisfied with this model and appreciate that the care coordination is initiated from their initial visit online” she says.

NP Hobson shared that patients are sometimes apprehensive about using virtual care and getting familiar with the technology, but the majority of patients are then pleasantly surprised with their experience.  

While she acknowledges that the concept of virtual care can be overwhelming for some individuals, she encourages Nova Scotians to try it and make use of the supports available.

“I would encourage any unattached patient to register for VirtualCareNS and give it a try after receiving an invite. Even if you don’t have an acute medical issue, I would suggest you go online to discuss preventative health options. This includes routine screening for chronic diseases, screening for cancers, and ensuring you are up to date on vaccines.”

NP Hobson said that VirtualCareNS is a great opportunity for unattached patients to take control of their own health.

“We are always happy to talk to patients about anything they can do to optimize their own health. We want patients to take a proactive approach, and not wait until they have worsening symptoms or serious concerns.”

She also noted that there is often a misconception that the purpose of VirtualCareNS is only to refill prescriptions. She wants people to know that the program can do much more than that, including ordering laboratory and diagnostic imaging, creating specialist referrals, recommending free community resources, and coordinating in-person care.

“We’ve filled the need for prescription refills and routine blood work, but we've also caught cancers, and supported patients who are experiencing extreme mental health crisis’s,” she said.

NP Hobson acknowledged that while work must continue to address the barriers to accessing primary health care, VirtualCareNS sees a large number of patients who otherwise would have not sought out in-person care.

She said the program has also made a tremendous impact in addressing the mental health needs of Nova Scotians.

“To know that we’ve been able to provide them with this option, and that we’ve been able to impact their physical and mental health is incredible.”

To learn more about VirtualCareNS and the support options that are available, please visit www.virtualcarens.ca.

About the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub

The Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub is leading innovation and research within the healthcare system to deliver high-impact solutions for patients and providers. Through strategic partnerships with clinical champions, industry, healthcare foundations, governments and academic partners, Nova Scotia Health’s Innovation Hub is transforming healthcare through the best available evidence and innovative solutions. It’s also a catalyst that is fostering an innovative mindset and approaches to bring about positive system change. Learn more.