PEI

Skip the Waiting Room will let Islanders book COVID-19 vaccines online

Islanders eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine can now book appointments online through Skip the Waiting Room.

'We're working our best to make sure that there will be no hiccups'

The co-founder of Skip the Waiting Room says the scheduling service is free to use for provincial services such as a COVID-19 vaccine. (File photo from Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Islanders eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine can now book appointments online through Skip the Waiting Room.

The P.E.I.-based company said it has secured a contract with the province to help provide more efficient access during the pandemic.  

"We saw reports of people waiting in a car for 8 hours to get testing done," said CEO and co-founder Mark Richardson. 

"COVID seemed like a great fit for me, so I started rattling the chains that I could rattle and said: 'As an Islander and a business, we'd love to help out with this.'" 

The company was born five years ago after Richardson found himself sitting in the waiting room at a walk-in clinic — for four and a half hours. 

"I thought to myself: 'There's got to be a better way to do this.'"

'I had seen some of the frustration and seen some of the lineups at the testing centres,' says Mark Richardson, the CEO and co-founder of Skip the Waiting Room. (Submitted by Mark Richardson)

From there, the online site and app were created, giving others the option of pre-booking appointments to reduce time spent lingering in clinics. So far, Richardson said around 60,000 people have used the service for walk-in care on the Island.  

"I think every Canadian understands the frustration and wasted time of sitting in a waiting room or trying to get through a phone line." 

Now, in addition to becoming available to other provinces, Richardson said the company has expanded on P.E.I. to areas like internal medicine, MRI appointments and mammography appointments.

Meeting an urgent timeline

For those looking to book online before heading into a walk-in clinic, there is a fee of $5. But because of the terms of his contract with the P.E.I government, Richardson says it's free to schedule provincial services such as COVID-19 vaccines. 

I'm sure it will get a little bit more hectic when we get to the general announcement or the general population.- Mark Richardson, Skip the Waiting Room

A statement from Health P.E.I said it entered into a short-term agreement with Skip the Waiting Room after it was identified as the only option available to "meet the urgent timelines to launch an online scheduling system to support COVID vaccine delivery." 

According to the statement, all safeguards outlined under the P.E.I Health Information Act are being maintained.

"We had to jump through a lot of privacy hoops and some threat-risk assessments and all those things," said Richardson. 

"It was an extensive process but I'm glad to be on the other side of it." 

'Going to do our best'

Richardson said he doesn't know the exact number of people who have used the company to book vaccines so far — but he said he does expect it to increase.

"I'm sure it will get a little bit more hectic when we get to the general announcement or the general population," he said. 

"I know people will be very eager to get their vaccine, as I am."

For now, Richardson said, the company is spending time making improvements so that when Islanders do reach out to book virtually, Skip the Waiting Room is ready. 

"We might be able to book, you know, thousands of people a day, 24/7," he said. "We're working our best to make sure that there will be no hiccups.

 "No promises, but we're certainly going to do our best."

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Wayne Thibodeau

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