Virtual doctor visits arriving in Waterloo region, Wellington county

Residents of Waterloo region and Wellington county who have had issues accessing doctors might see some relief with a project that introduces virtual visits to the doctor.
Virtual visits to the doctor are coming to Waterloo region and Wellington county. (Shutterstock)

Some family doctors and nurses in Waterloo Region and Wellington County will be doing virtual visits with their patients through a pilot project by eHealth Centre of Excellence. 

The Waterloo-based health centre is hoping to invite 100 doctors and nurses over the next year, starting in January or early February, to participate in the pilot.

Mohamed Alarakhia, a physician and the director of the centre, told CBC News the project will allow health care professionals to care for their patients through secure messaging, audio and video conferences. 

"About 40 to 50 per cent of visits can be done this way."

He described the system as one where patients enter their information, get triaged virtually, then see their care providers if necessary. Over the next year, the eHealth Centre of Excellence will be working with the Ontario Telemedicine Network, a province-funded non-profit, to further develop and test the system.

Part of it will be to determine which types of visits are appropriate to be conducted virtually. For now, Alarakhia said appointments for prescription renewals, sinus infections and reviewing lab results are all the types of appointments where in-person visits aren't necessary. 

The virtual visit tool will be integrated into an existing physician-patient relationship and not used to manage walk-ins.

"We now that that relationship yields a lot of value, because they both know each other, they know what to expect and they know sort of what's normal and what's abnormal," he said.

This project received $900,000 in provincial funding to get it started on the ground. 

Minister of Government and Consumer Services Tracy MacCharles said the provincial government "is committed to funding forward-thinking approaches to procurement that can support better outcomes for Ontarians."