Kingston-based company Novari Health has made it possible for Ontario-based patients who don’t have a primary care physician, or are unable to see their own physician, to “see” a family physician virtually for non-COVID-19 related health issues.
“Access to primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic poses a problem for some patients as they follow public health instructions to practice social distancing and staying home,” says Novari Health. “With patients obeying public health instructions, physicians are seeing less demand for traditional face-to-face clinical appointments. Virtual medical appointments using the Novari eVisit™ technology provide a safe way for patients and physicians to see each other, with no need for the use of critical personal protection equipment (PPE), such as N95 masks.”
Novari Health was selected to create the virtual waiting room and virtual clinic software in a collaborative initiative of the Ontario Medical Association, OntarioMD, Ontario Ministry of Health and Ontario Health. Funding for the project was provided by Canada Health Infoway, an independent, federally funded, not-for-profit organization.
The software system was quickly adopted and is already being widely used by primary care and specialist physicians, according to Novari Health. “The Ontario Virtual Care Clinic is staffed by licenced Ontario physicians who responded to a call from the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) for primary care physicians interested in helping. Hundreds of physicians responded, keen to participate, from every corner of the province,” says Novari Health.
Patients can access the free virtual clinic by going to www.seethedoctor.ca and entering access code “health”. Patients then enter the virtual waiting room and can see their estimated wait time to see a doctor. Patients will need an OHIP card to access the online service, as well as internet access and a device with a camera and microphone. An email address and a mobile phone number will also be required to receive notifications from the service.
The service is designed to provide care for simple and non-urgent health concerns like colds, cough, flu, allergies, women’s health issues, chronic disease management, pain, urinary tract infections, rash and medication questions, according to Novari Health. “Patients should first reach out to their own primary care provider if they have one as the virtual service is not intended to replace regular care. Those with symptoms related to COVID-19 such as difficulty breathing, persistent fever or dry cough should access Ontario’s online self-assessment tool, contact their family doctor or local public health unit for further assessment and instructions. Patients with urgent or emergency medical concerns should call 9-1-1,” says the company.