PEI expands virtual consult platform to include access to Nova Scotia specialists
Primary care providers in Prince Edward Island can now easily access specialists in Nova Scotia to discuss patient care through an expansion of the Virtual Hallway online consultation platform, further improving patient care for Islanders and potentially reducing the need for out-of-province travel.
Since the platform launched in early May, primary care providers (nurse practitioners and physicians) in the province have been able to consult virtually with Island specialists only. With the platform’s expansion last week, Island primary care providers currently have access to approximately 50 Nova Scotia specialists across various specialty areas of medicine. There are currently 121 registered users from Prince Edward Island on Virtual Hallway, including 93 primary care providers and 28 specialists. With the expansion to Nova Scotia-based specialists, these numbers are anticipated to increase.
The Virtual Hallway platform makes it easier for nurse practitioners and family physicians to connect with a specialist for input on a patient’s condition and care plan, helping to streamline patient care. In some cases, a referral to the specialist may not be required following the peer-to-peer consultation increasing care available to patients right here in PEI.
Since May 1, 2023, there have been 78 Virtual Hallway consultations completed between registered Prince Edward Island primary care providers and specialists with an estimated 84% of potential patient referrals avoided as a result of the virtual peer-to-peer consults.
Currently, specialist appointments for primary care providers are available within less than 5 days, depending on the specialty, with many specialists in both provinces offering same-day appointment availability.
Implementation of Virtual Hallway in the province is a collaborative Health Innovation project between Health PEI, the Department of Health & Wellness, NS Health and CAN Health. Access to the Virtual Hallway platform is available to all Health PEI physicians and nurse practitioners at no cost to them.
“Virtual Hallway is a great example of using new and innovative ways to enhance health care services in Prince Edward Island. With the addition of Nova Scotia, Island residents will have access to many additional specialists for the consultations they require. Virtual Hallway has already seen much success and with this expansion will continue to offer seamless, timely consultations for Island patients.”
– Honourable Mark McLane, Minister of Health and Wellness.
“Medical Affairs is pleased to see this service being used by Island physicians and nurse practitioners. This sort of quick hallway consultation happens so naturally in a shared space like a hospital. Creating a virtual environment to facilitate these kinds of connections has already proven invaluable. Expanding the Virtual Hallway to Nova Scotia only creates more exciting opportunities for collaboration.”
– Dr. Kathie McNally, Health PEI Chief Medical Officer.
“Family physicians have recognized a need for a service like Virtual Hallway for years - it was heartening to see it launch this spring. I've already used the service a couple of times. I was really impressed with the platform's simplicity, and the way it facilitates documentation of the consult for the patient's chart. I recommend it to any family physician or nurse practitioner with a complex question that doesn't quite require a formal consultation.
– Dr. Laura O’Connor, family physician, Sherwood Medical Centre.
"I have been a general surgeon for thirty-five years and have had countless ‘hallway conversations’ conveying and receiving ‘information with colleagues. Formalizing this natural form of communication between health care providers through Virtual Hallway has been a simple and incredibly effective mechanism to discuss issues chronic and acute in nature. I have received excellent feedback from referring providers for both booked and OnDemand consultations. Virtual Hallway is a service that should be available to health care providers across our region, and nationally! I am eager to see the effects of increased access to specialist services for the primary care providers and, ultimately, the patients of PEI. I believe this collaboration will lead to fewer referrals off of the Island."
- Dr. Phil Smith, General Surgeon in Nova Scotia
About Virtual Hallway:
Virtual Hallway is an online platform used by nurse practitioners and physicians to coordinate peer-to-peer phone consults. The service started based on a group of physicians' observations that patients were waiting too long for specialist consultation and that these delays were leading to more chronic and disabling conditions. The idea was that specialist input earlier on in a course of illness could streamline a patient’s treatment and optimize their care. The phone calls facilitated on Virtual Hallway are meant to rapidly, and efficiently, get specialty-guided care to primary care settings.
Specialty areas available through Virtual Hallway
Specialty areas offered by Prince Edward Island specialists: ADHD (pediatrics), geriatric medicine, hematology – medical oncology, internal medicine, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, pain management, palliative care, pediatrics, psychiatry, urology and vascular medicine/surgery.
Specialty areas offered by Nova Scotia specialists: child/adolescent psychology, dermatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, general surgery, geriatric medicine, hematology, hepatology, infectious disease, internal medicine, internal medicine (cardiology topics), nephrology, neurology, neurosurgery, obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, pain management, palliative care, pediatric allergy, pediatrics, psychiatry, psychiatry (mood disorder), rheumatology, sleep medicine, sport and exercise medicine, and urology.
Department of Health and Wellness