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Sunnybrook expands on virtual care with Toronto’s Virtual Emergency Department

January 11, 2022

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Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is proud to be part of Toronto’s Virtual Emergency Department (ED), a new one-stop access point for virtual emergency care in the city.

Toronto’s Virtual ED offers virtual appointments with emergency department physicians from Sunnybrook, University Health Network and Unity Health Toronto. Focused on addressing acute but non-life-threatening issues, patients can book a same-day appointment to see a doctor through the video conferencing app Zoom if they’re unable to see their family doctor.

The service aims to reduce wait times, reach under-served populations, and improve the patient and family experience, while also reducing the number of people who need to physically go to an emergency department to receive care.

“Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen people delay their care due to fears around contracting COVID-19 and become more unwell before they eventually came in,” says Dr. Justin Hall, Sunnybrook emergency physician and one of the leads on developing Toronto’s Virtual ED. “Virtual care provides an option for those patients who need care, but want to do it in a way that’s convenient for them.”

In December 2020, the three hospitals each launched their own virtual emergency departments as part of a six-month pilot project funded by Ontario Health. With additional provincial and hospital funding, the three hospitals merged their separate virtual systems into one centralized resource, Toronto’s Virtual Emergency Department.

Says Dr. Hall, “When Sunnybrook launched its own Virtual ED in 2020, we saw that providing this alternate option was meeting a need for many patients, and they were very pleased with the service. It is wonderful to join forces with two other exceptional institutions, and create a singular door to virtual emergency care.”

Toronto’s Virtual ED is open 7 days a week. Monday to Friday (9 a.m. - 9 p.m.), Saturday and Sunday (9 a.m. - 1 p.m.). The booking system opens at 7 a.m. for same-day virtual appointments; however, patients should first try to book an appointment with their family doctor. Patients must have access to reliable Internet and a quiet space to attend the appointment.

“It’s not a replacement for the in-person ED,” explains Dr. Hall. “Emergency departments are still open and are safe to visit. People experiencing life-threatening issues like a heart attack or stroke should still go to the hospital. But issues such as skin conditions, some mental health concerns or sprains and strains can be assessed through a video appointment.”

“This is a service that we intend to offer post-pandemic,” says Dr. Hall. “Giving patients choice is what it’s all about. We want to care for people, when they need it, in the way that serves them best.”

Learn more about Toronto’s Virtual ED