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Sunnybrook Hospital offers ‘virtual emergency department’ appointments in 6-month pilot project

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WATCH ABOVE: During Wednesday's coronavirus briefing, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced more than $115 million to support 850 patients with complex care needs transition to home and community care as part of the province's COVID-19 fall preparedness plan. The funding also includes 14.5 million to expand virtual care across the province – Dec 2, 2020

Sunnybrook Hospital has launched a “virtual emergency department” for patients with urgent but non-life-threatening health concerns who would like to speak with a physician.

The program, called “VirtualED,” opened Tuesday in Toronto and is a six month pilot project also involving Unity Health and the University Health Network.

Sunnybrook said their regular in-person emergency department saw a decrease in patient visits during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic likely due to “fears of COVID-19.”

Read more: Ontario announces new $60M facility for brain and mental health at Sunnybrook

“By offering same-day virtual appointments with emergency department physicians, this pilot aims to reach patients in their homes so that they do not have to come to the hospital. It also aims to service under-served populations, reduce wait times and improve the patient and family experience,” Sunnybrook said.

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Patients with an Ontario Health Card can book a virtual emergency department appointment between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, the hospital said. Appointments must be booked on the same day and can be booked online or by phone. The booking system opens up at 12 p.m.

The appointments are done via Zoom so patients need a computer or smartphone with video, internet access and need to be in a quiet location, the hospital said.

Sunnybrook Hospital said patients should try to book with their family doctor first if the medical need is not urgent.

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