HALIFAX: People on the Need a Family Practice Registry across the province will soon have access to virtual care, the premier of the province announced on Sept. 23.
Premier Tim Houston said his government will invest an initial $1.3 million to support Nova Scotia Health to expand the VirtualCareNS pilot program to Central and Eastern zones beginning in December. This will ensure every person on the waitlist for a doctor has access to care while recruitment efforts are enhanced.
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,” said Houston. “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 enables people on the Need a Family Practice Registry to access a primary-care provider online through their computer or mobile device. It is a free program delivered using Maple, one of Canada’s leading virtual-care platforms.
Participants can use VirtualCareNS to access care for a variety of health concerns. If a patient’s health concerns can’t be resolved virtually, they will be provided with options for in-person care.
Primary-care providers can also prescribe medications, order tests and make referrals for specialized care.
“Access to a primary-care provider is important, and this has been a challenge for many who are on the Need a Family Practice Registry. We will now start work to expand VirtualCareNS so everyone on the registry has an option to access care from a family physician, nurse practitioner or other provider for their health concerns in a timely way.”
– Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, vice-president, Research, Innovation and Discovery, and chief nurse executive, Nova Scotia Health
“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, Doctors Nova Scotia
— since its May 2021 launch in Northern and Western zones, about 4,900 people have registered for a VirtualCareNS account and nearly 1,500 virtual visits have taken place
— there are now 11 primary-care providers delivering care through VirtualCareNS (eight family physicians and three nurse practitioners); more providers are being added
— all participating primary-care providers are located in Nova Scotia
— as of Sept. 1, there were 75,180 Nova Scotians on the Need a Family Practice Registry
— expanding VirtualCareNS addresses the mandate of the Minister of Health and Wellness to provide Nova Scotians on the waitlist with access to a virtual-care service: https://novascotia.ca/exec_council/letters-2021/ministerial-mandate-letter-2021-DHW.pdf