B.C. has a critical shortage of family physicians. The Okanagan has been hit particularly hard.
There are currently about 200,000 residents in BC looking for a family physician. There are currently no doctors accepting new patients in Kelowna at the time of writing this article.
Walk-in clinics have helped alleviate the issue of patients not having a family physician, but Walk-in clinics themselves are having an issue getting physicians.
Rutland’s Walk-in Clinic is closing. Other walk-in clinics in Kelowna are reducing their hours. Patients will have to travel farther to get to a walk-in clinic, and those walk-in clinics will be getting busier because of this. Wait times have already been very long, as reported by my patients. Two to three hour wait times were being reported, but it ended up getting worse. Sometimes the walk-in clinics would stop taking patients well before their posted closing times.
With the news of Rutland’s only walk-in clinic closing, I was very concerned for the residents of Rutland. There was already a large need for walk-in clinics in Rutland. My customers have long been complaining about wait times and the lack of family physicians. I knew that something had to change, and very quickly if possible.
I had heard of different forms of tele-medicine, and I was wondering if this would be able to help the residents of Rutland, and even alleviate the burden on the remaining walk-in clinics in Kelowna and the hospital. The technology for this type of service has been in place for a while, but the trend of ‘virtual clinics’ seems to be getting much more popular lately.
The ‘virtual walk-in clinic’ connects patients with a physician with video and sound through the internet. This allows ‘real-time’ communication with a patient and a licensed physician. These visits can help patients get refills on their medications, diagnose colds, flu and other illnesses, ordering laboratory work and referring to specialists if needed. The physicians are licensed in BC, and bill PharmaCare for the visit.
I’ve opened a ‘virtual walk-in clinic’ to help ensure patients can see a doctor as easily as possible. I tested the system by booking a doctor visit for myself as I had not seen a doctor for a while. My doctor visit went well. I had a visit with a doctor that was very thorough in her questions regarding my medications and the reason for my visit. I received lab requisitions and prescriptions within minutes of my visit. I was very happy with the convenience and professionalism of the visit.
After successfully testing the virtual clinic on myself, I opened the clinic to my existing customers. The customers reported that they were happy with the doctor visit and how convenient it was to see a physician. Now that I have tested the system myself and with some of my existing customers, I am comfortable introducing this service publicly.
I set up the ‘virtual walk-in clinic’ to allow the residents of Rutland to at least talk to a doctor easily. The pharmacy does not receive any money from these visits. The ‘virtual walk-in clinic’ was created to help alleviate the current physician shortage. The benefits to the pharmacy would help to introduce more residents to my pharmacy and the services that I offer here. I would also hope that some of the prescriptions generated through these visits would be filled at my pharmacy.
Our staff will help patients create an account with an online doctor if needed. They will help fill in the information requested and help create an appointment. We are here to ensure that the purpose for the visit is clear and concise, and that the visit works well for both the physician and the patient.
I am happy to help introduce Rutland to telemedicine with this virtual clinic. I am optimistic that this technology will be able to help many Rutland residents continue to be able to visit a physician without having to travel outside of Rutland.