Nurse Practitioner in rural Nova Scotia embraces virtual care for patients
June 30, 2020
Susan Savage joined the collaborative family practice team at North Queens Medical Centre in Caledonia, N.S. – 100 km west of Halifax – two years ago as a nurse practitioner with Nova Scotia Health Authority.
The collaborative practice’s two nurse practitioners and family doctor provide primary care for residents of the small, close-knit community, along with those living in the surrounding areas.
At the end of March, Savage began providing virtual appointments for patients using Zoom for Healthcare, like many others, once it became available for healthcare providers in Nova Scotia. Currently, more than 3,200 healthcare providers in the province are using Zoom for Healthcare in response to the pandemic.
“When it was indicated that we should limit in-person appointments due to the spread of COVID-19, our practice adopted virtual care overnight,” said Savage. “We talked about using Zoom one day, and the next day we were doing it. I’ve been providing many of my appointments with patients online.”
Savage found it easy to adapt to virtual appointments, as she routinely provides appointments for her patients by phone.
“I have been providing telephone appointments for patients all along, as many healthcare providers do. Some patients are not able to afford to travel to the clinic, so I will speak with them by phone to ensure they receive the advice and care they need.”
Sometimes an appointment by phone just isn’t enough, and that’s where a virtual appointment with a video component can be helpful.
“As a primary care provider, there is so much you gather through observation. By adding video, you can see the patient’s rash, wound, droopy eye lid or issues with mobility, which you can’t get from a telephone call.”
Savage does note that there are physical assessments that can’t be completed virtually, and in-person appointments are arranged for patients as clinically warranted.
As a relatively new provider to the collaborative family practice team, Savage has been accepting new patients into her practice from the Need a Family Practice Registry. She finds that the initial appointment with a new patient can be done virtually with Zoom for Healthcare.
“Virtual care is a way to make appointments in family practice more accessible for patients. The patient population that I am really interested in using virtual care with are those who find it difficult to come in to the office, such as a mom with several young children, or an elderly patient who doesn’t drive.”
Access to Wi-Fi or a data package on a mobile phone is another consideration that needs to be weighed when offering a virtual appointment. “High-speed internet is supposed to be coming to this area later this year, so that will make a big difference for this community, and hopefully it will be affordable.”
Overall, adopting virtual care appointments has been well received.
“There have been some growing pains, but that’s the case with anything new. This will possibly be the new normal in my practice, as there is huge value for clinic patients, as well as for primary care providers. For example, when the weather is bad and the roads are poor, rather than reschedule, a patient’s appointment can be done virtually; it really will change how we deliver care.”