Winnipeg-made virtual doctor service creating more access to health care

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Manitoba company creating free virtual doctor visits
QDoc filling gaps in Manitoba's healthcare system – Jun 26, 2022

Manitobans can bank online and order groceries from their phones. Now a pair of Manitobans believe you should be able to visit a doctor online as well.

“I always felt it was unfair that someone who knows me could call me and get hooked up in to the system and get healthcare, and a lot of doctors feel that way, so what we’re trying to build is an ability is to feel like they have a doctor they can call,” says Dr. Norm Silver, the Co-founder and CEO of QDoc.

QDoc is a new free Winnipeg-made online tool that connects users with a doctor through a webcam in roughly 15 minutes. The goal is to match each patient with a local physician in their area, whether it’s a pediatrician or an OBGYN.

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“Our whole being is to ensure equal access to quality medical care to all Canadians regardless of geographical location and socioeconomic status,” Silver says.

25 per cent of QDoc’s users are diverted from emergency departments and redirected to more appropriate types of care, helping to lessen the load on Manitoba’s overwhelmed healthcare system, he says.

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“Why wouldn’t you want to connect to a doctor by video for free, if you have provincial healthcare, as opposed to going to a clinic or going to an emergency department if you don’t have to.”

Silver says the online tool is already rapidly expanding, with multiple pilot projects in the works.

“We have a relationship with MKO and they’re looking for a nursing station so they can put QDoc in as a pilot to start servicing their communities.” He says. “We’re also working with Peguis First Nation, the Hodgson area and Fisher Branch to do a pilot to create a First Nation Community paramedicine service so that when an emergency vehicle gets to a person’s house they can connect directly to a doctor and it’s the doctor that takes care of that area will be accessed first.

Meanwhile inside Winnipeg, users are already benefiting from the service.

Marina Barnes is a busy Winnipeg mother who says the tool comes in handy with her children.

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“I am a working mom with three kids so it’s really hard to find time to take time out of your day to find a doctor,” says Barnes.

A sick kid usually means a visit to the clinic for her family, but QDoc saved her the time and the trip.

“I got to talk to a doctor. He assessed the situation. I had an appointment the next day for an xray for my kid and it was resolved just like that,” says Barnes.

The free tool has proven to be popular outside of Winnipeg as well, where many rural and northern communities lack timely access to healthcare services.

“It’s not meant to replace obviously in-person care, but we’re facing realities of (folks desperate) for services…,” says Co-founder and Chief of Technology, David Berkowits.

Berkowits developed the software for the program, where patients have the option to share details of the virtual visit with their family physician, something he calls a way of the future.

“As someone who’s been in this business for thirty years, trying to integrate healthcare records, that is fundamental and core for what we’re building, he says.

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So far there are 25 doctors on board, with the hope of recruiting 150 more.

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