Sarnia doctors launch virtual care app

(Photo from Pixabay)

A group of Sarnia doctors has launched a free virtual care app to connect with patients during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Members of the Sarnia Physicians Group, led by Dr. Sean Peterson and Dr. John O’Mahony at Rapids Family Health Team, unveiled the service via

Dr. Peterson said the app was born out of a need for patients and the medical community to communicate with better ease and flexibility.

“The traditional model of the patient coming to my office and sitting and waiting for an hour or longer, we can all agree that’s a very inefficient way of delivering healthcare. We’re trying to think of how can we deliver healthcare differently, how can we connect patients with all of their healthcare providers.”

Dr. Peterson said the project had started before the outbreak and was originally set to role out later this year. He said when the pandemic hit, the timeline of doing something over the next six months became “can we do this over the next two weeks?”

He said the app can deliver a somewhat similar experience to a regular in-person meeting.

“In some ways it’s similar in the sense that the patient comes in, they first meet with either one of my administrators or nurses and then meet with either myself or one of the nurse practitioners. We’ll still go out and arrange any investigations, consults, laboratory tests and prescribe medications as we typically do, and then communicate back with the patient either through the app or through an email.”

Dr. Peterson said they’ve even noticed some benefits to the virtual meeting setting.

“We found that some of my patients who have anxiety, coming into the office unto itself is quite an anxiety provoking situation. So I actually find for some of those patients, by allowing us to do virtual visits, they can be in the comfort of their own home and can probably more effectively communicate their concerns and that probably leads to a better encounter.”

Dr. Peterson said they want to reenvision how they can deliver healthcare and find a way to connect patients with all of their healthcare providers.

“So I might have my family doctor, I might have my cardiologist, my obstetrician, my psychiatrist, I’d have my physiotherapist, my dentist, so that I can actually have a connection with all of those different offices through one app. I can then two-way message them, I can then request appointments through the app very seamlessly.”

Dr. Peterson said local marketing and software development house TMRRW Inc. went above and beyond to launch the free service.

Rapids Family Health Team Access to Care Centre will be assessing same day patients virtually via Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., while the Sarnia Physicians After Hours clinic will be assessing patients weekdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The group will be seeing their own patients, as well as patients without a family doctor during COVID-19. Patients with a primary care provider are asked to always seek care with their office as their first option.

The Sarnia Physicians Group is comprised of 25 family doctors caring for over 50,000 patients.

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