Nova Scotia

Care Now clinic accepts online bookings, reduces wait times

The walk-in medical clinic behind the MacQuarries Pharmasave in Bible Hill, N.S., is the first in the province to encourage patients to book appointments online.

Andrea Currie said the most she has ever waited at the clinic for the doctor is 10 to 15 minutes

The three-month pilot underway at the Care Now clinic in Bible Hill is the first in the province to pilot an online portal allowing patients more convenient access to medical appointments. (CBC)

The walk-in medical clinic behind the MacQuarries Pharmasave in Bible Hill, N.S., is the first in the province to encourage patients to book appointments online. 

Although surgeons have been using the internet to access X-rays and medical advice while working on patients from remote locations, the three-month pilot underway at the Care Now clinic in Bible Hill is the first in the province to pilot an online portal allowing patients more convenient access to medical appointments. 

Vohra says the online booking system allows him to schedule an additional doctor to come in and see patients if more people are ill and wanting to be seen. (CBC)

"To book online and be able to do it at my desk, at the touch off a button is fabulous," said Andrea Currie, who works full-time in the Town of Truro's finance department and is the mother of five children. 

"No waiting in line, no making phone calls, staying on hold, waiting for someone to return your call. It's great."

Currie said the most she has ever waited at the clinic for the doctor is 10 to 15 minutes, a far cry from the hours she has spent waiting in doctors' offices or other after-hours clinics. 

"You don't have so many people waiting for you in the waiting room," said Dr. Manoj Vohra, the family doctor who runs the clinic and is piloting the software module developed by HealthConnex, a Nova Scotia company owned and operated through a partnership of Nova Scotia co-operatives and credit unions. 

"When you look out, there is just one or two people. Most patients will book online, get an appointment time and then be seen within 10 or 15 minutes."

Vohra, who is also a former vice-president with the Colchester-East Hants District Health Authority, said the online booking system allows him to schedule an additional doctor to come in and see patients if more people are ill and wanting to be seen.

Currie says the Care Now website is easy to use. Patients present their health card when they come to the clinic, reducing potential privacy or security concerns.

"With this type of booking, it isn't really asking for intimate details about the patient," said  Currie. "It's just your name, your contact information, and the time you want to arrive."

'The way the world is going'

The HealthConnex software also allows patients to scan documents and assemble their own personal health-care record that can travel with them if they leave Canada for a winter vacation or simply change doctors.

The N.S. company, which has spent a decade and $5 million financing and developing the online system, has provided the record-keeping software free-of-charge to more than 1,000 of Vohra's patients.

"I think most patients should have access to their own records and, in fact, they are the ones who are the common thread when they go among different providers," said Vohra. 

Currie hasn't signed up for the e-record yet but thinks the idea has merit . 

"With my job, I also manage an IT department so I feel quite confident," said Currie. "That's the way the world is going. I'm comfortable with that but I know not everyone would be."

A portable, electronic health document that stays with the patient  has so far eluded federal and provincial governments which have spent tens of millions of dollars over the last two decades on programs such as Canada Health Infoway.

A spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Department of Health said the province is still "moving forward" with the project and finalizing details. 

HealthConnex president and CEO Dianne Kelderman said within the next couple of months, two or three more walk-in clinics in Cape Breton and northern Nova Scotia will be testing HealthConnex to let patients book medical appointments online. It sells for less than $2,000.

Vohra said more change will need to take place before patients can take advantage of the online system's capability to receive lab test results or get a prescription refill without having to visit the doctor.

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