Virtual care program expanded to more than 75,000 Nova Scotians without a family doctor
Nova Scotia is expanding its virtual care pilot program, allowing more people without a family doctor to access the service.
The province says it's spending $1.3 million to expand the VirtualCareNS pilot program to the Central and Eastern zones beginning in December.
The service will be available to those on the Need a Family Practice Registry.
"This will ensure every person on the waitlist for a doctor has access to care while recruitment efforts are enhanced," says a release issued Thursday afternoon.
The pilot program launched in Northern and Western zones last spring.
"We have heard from patients and providers that access to health care is a priority," Premier Tim Houston said in a release.
"Virtual care offers a new means of seeing a primary-care provider for many people, and this expansion is a first step in ensuring every Nova Scotian has access to a form of primary care."
VirtualCareNS allows people on the registry to access a doctor or nurse practitioner online through their computer or mobile device.
It is a free program delivered using Maple, one of Canada's leading virtual-care platforms.
The service can be used for a variety of health concerns, but if the care provider can't resolve the issue virtually, the patient will be provided with options for in-person care.
Care providers can also prescribe medications, order tests and make referrals for specialized care.
"Nova Scotians who don't have a family doctor need an immediate solution. This is a good interim approach. At the same time, we look forward to working with the new government to make the changes in our health-care system that are needed to ensure that every Nova Scotian has their own family doctor as soon as possible," Dr. Heather Johnson, president of Doctors Nova Scotia, said in a release.
VirtualCareNS launched in the Northern and Western zones in May where about 4,900 people have registered for an account and nearly 1,500 virtual visits have taken place.
The service has 11 primary-care providers - eight family physicians and three nurse practitioners – all of which are located in Nova Scotia.
As of Sept. 1, there were 75,180 Nova Scotians on the Need a Family Practice Registry.