Updated September 6, 2023
Dr Kevin Hill:
Over the past 15 months, I have been actively involved in providing services for the HEiDi and CAT-e arms of HealthLinkBC, commonly known as the 811 and COVID antiviral services respectively. The After-Hours Care Program is being closely modelled on these.
Those services, offer flexible scheduling with short shifts, allowing this this work to fit around other commitments. The system also allows for extending working hours by taking consecutive shifts.
There is a degree of choice regarding shift selection and the number of shifts required per month, as well as the option to take leave when needed. Additionally, there is a realistic chance of being able to swap a shift in the event of a clash with other work. Before starting, I received comprehensive training, for which I was compensated.
The Virtual Consult Service colleagues (who function as virtual medical office assistants) are supportive and well-informed about local services, fostering a positive and helpful atmosphere in our primary communication channel – a group chat. The patients are triaged before physician reviews, and the charts are prepared in advance. The Electronic Health Record (EHR) system is user-friendly, and technical support is readily available and responsive – I've never had to wait more than a few minutes for assistance.
A central online repository houses a range of documents providing information and updates related to the work. Additionally, we have access to provincial health records and can easily share information with patients and pharmacies.
Patients have responded very positively to the services, appreciating the ability to receive medical advice, especially during the current climate. For example: HEiDi virtual physicians, while working with 811 nurses, were able to divert approximately 7 out of 10 patients away from visiting Emergency Departments, with 1 in 3 being able to manage their urgent problems at home without visiting any other doctors, and 1 in 3 being able to follow up with their family doctors within the next 7 days. I anticipate that the AHCP service will do the same in responding to the patients with their urgent issues, supporting them to avoid visiting emergency departments, and following up with their own family doctors safely.
Dr. Kevin Hill is a family physician with the South Okanagan Similkameen division of family practice.