The province has announced an expansion of a pilot program to allow people in Nova Scotia Health’s Central and Eastern health zones to access a primary care provider online.
In a media release Friday, the Department of Health and Wellness said those in the central and eastern parts of the province who are on the Need a Family Practice Registry will start receiving invitations for VirtualCareNS next week.
On Monday, Nova Scotia Health will begin contacting those living in Central and Eastern zones by email, beginning with communities with the largest number of people on the registry. They’ll first contact those who have been on the registry the longest. Anyone wishing to update their email address on file can call 811.
VirtualCareNS is a free program delivered through Maple, described by the province as one of Canada’s leading virtual care platforms. It enables those on the registry to access a primary care provider online.
The province said during a virtual appointment, primary care providers can prescribe medications, order tests, and make referrals for specialized care. If a patient’s health concerns can’t be resolved virtually, they will be provided with options for in-person care.
Nova Scotia Health’s website notes that VirtualCareNS provides “temporary access to primary medical care” for people on the Need a Family Practice Registry. It advises that they can make a same-day virtual medical appointment.
The cost for the VirtualCareNS expansion into the Central and Eastern zones is $1.3 million.
The program was launched in the Northern and Western health zones in May. Since that launch, the province said 10,293 people have registered for a VirtualCareNS account and there have been 3,778 virtual visits. Health care providers delivering that virtual care include 25 physicians and four nurse practitioners.
As of December 1, more than 82,000 Nova Scotians were on the registry awaiting a primary care provider.
Dr. Maria Alexiadis, senior medical director, Primary Health Care and Chronic Disease Management Network, Nova Scotia Health, and family physician, VirtualCareNS, said the program allows providers to give timely care and bridges the “access gap” for those who are “unattached.”
“We continue to recruit more family physicians and nurse practitioners to provide care through VirtualCareNS so we can ensure that everyone on the Need a Family Practice Registry can access care virtually until they are connected to a family practice,” Alexiadis said in the release.
To be eligible for VirtualCareNS, people must be on the Need a Family Practice Registry, hold a valid Nova Scotia health card number, and be able to access the internet through a computer or mobile device. They must also have an email address they regularly access, and be in the province when accessing the service.
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One handy fact – it’s M-F 9-4 roughly – not late night or weekends. Also just family practice. If you’re already using Maple, consider signing up with an alternate email address so you retain access to your existing options.