Virtual medical service reaches downtown streets


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Winnipeg’s most vulnerable may soon see greater access to medical care, thanks to a collaboration between the Downtown Community Safety Partnership and a virtual medical consultation service.

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Winnipeg’s most vulnerable may soon see greater access to medical care, thanks to a collaboration between the Downtown Community Safety Partnership and a virtual medical consultation service.

Local medical technology company QDoc uses online software to offer 24-7, real time access to medical professionals. This week, it donated three new tablets to the DCSP, whose staff will soon begin offering the service to unsheltered people living downtown.

“Our mission statement is to provide equal access to quality medical care for all Canadians, regardless of where they live or their social economic status,” said Dr. Norman Silver, co-founder of QDoc.

With the help of the virtual service, DCSP staff can act as a bridge between the homeless and medical communities, allowing vulnerable people to seek medical advice free of difficulty and distrust, Silver said.

“DCSP are meeting them downtown, they know their names and where they stay… so its a really good way to get a trusted person to help them access care.”

DCSP director of intelligence and operations Matthew Sanscartier provided an email statement Thursday on the collaboration with QDoc.

Although the partnership is in the early stages, it will help further the organization’s mission of “meeting folks in need where they are,” he said, adding it is important to provide Winnipeg’s vulnerable with both short- and long-term supports.

“(We are) very pleased to work with QDoc to ensure that multi-barriered populations have increased access to medical care,” he wrote. “The ability to see a physician virtually is going to have a significant positive impact on how DCSP can assist its participants, and will help produce more equitable health outcomes in the downtown area.”

Silver envisions a world where every patient’s first visit is a virtual waiting room — particularly people living remotely or with accessibility challenges.

The vast majority of initial diagnoses can be achieved safely and accurately through a video meeting and review of medical history, so online consultations are more efficient and accessible, he said.

Silver, a pediatric emergency specialist, hopes his company will streamline medical service and reduce strain on the beleaguered health system.

Currently, 53 medical professionals consult with the company, including general practitioners, emergency doctors, pediatricians, obstetricians and ophthalmologists.

More than 4,000 Manitobans accessed the service last month, with 76 per cent of users located outside of Winnipeg. Of those, 15 per cent (roughly 500) avoided emergency visits, Silver said.

QDoc formed last year with the help of $100,000 in funding from the province’s Innovation Growth Program. At the time, officials from Doctors Manitoba, an organization representing more than 4,000 physicians and medical learners, spoke in support of the concept.

In a release Wednesday, Manitoba deputy premier Cliff Cullen applauded the company for helping “revolutionize medicine.”

“(QDoc) is making a significant impact in both helping patients access care more easily and helping our health-care system,” Cullen said.

The Winnipeg company is currently operating in select First Nations communities, and has held expansion consultations with the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Southern Chiefs’ Organization, and a variety of regional health authorities.

Silver believes there may also be an opportunity to partner with the province’s Virtual Emergency Care and Transfer Resource Service — a separate virtual triage service announced last week by Health Minister Audrey Gordon.

Launching in the new year, it has an estimated annual budget of $5.5 million and will operate with an emergency physician, advanced care paramedic and advance practice respiratory therapist on staff 24-7.

VECTRS is designed to help health-care professionals organize transfers, while QDoc focuses on patient to physician consultations. Still, a collaboration would allow the province to leverage QDoc’s existing software without having to develop its own, Silver said.

It could provide an example of how private and government organizations can work together to further public health, he said.

“The most efficient systems are privately built and publicly funded.”

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