PEI

COVID-19 pandemic accelerates virtual health care on P.E.I.

Planning was already underway, but last week the P.E.I. government rolled out a platform for virtual health care ahead of schedule.

‘Not all appointments can be done virtually’

Anyone comfortable with video conferencing should be able to use Zoom for Health Care, says Dr. Kristy Newson. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

Planning was already underway, but last week the P.E.I. government rolled out a platform for virtual health care ahead of schedule.

The province has purchased licences on the Zoom for Health Care video conferencing platform that are now available for family doctors, specialists and nurse practitioners. About 80 had signed up for the project before the long weekend, said project co-lead Dr. Kristy Newson.

"The pandemic has really accelerated our virtual care," said Newson.

Newson said Zoom for Health Care, unlike the general Zoom platform that has recently made the news for security issues, has a high level of security that ensures privacy.

Virtual care could significantly reduce the number of in-person visits, which is especially important in a time of physical distancing.

"Not all appointments can be done virtually," said Newson.

"Some of the appointments that we could use for virtual care include most minor infections — like skin infections, sinus infections, urinary tract infections — many other skin problems like skin rashes, atypical moles."

Post-pandemic advantages

In-person appointments will always remain an option for people not comfortable with the technology, she said.

The virtual appointments will offer advantages beyond the pandemic, said Newson, particularly for patients.

"If you don't have a drive to your appointment, or if you don't want to take an afternoon off work to sit in a waiting room to see your physician, you may be able to just sign on when your appointment is coming up, have a visit with your physician and then go straight back to work," she said.

It could also be convenient, particularly during the pandemic, for people with kids at home who need care. Alternative arrangements would not have to be made.

Newson said she expects some issues early on as people figure out the technology, but anyone comfortable with video conferencing should be able to use it.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning

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