PEI launches peer-to-peer virtual consult platform, improving access to specialist care
Physicians and Nurse Practitioners in Prince Edward Island can more easily access physician specialists to discuss patient care through Virtual Hallway, an innovative online consult platform, improving patient care and reducing the need for in-person specialist consults.
The Virtual Hallway platform allows primary care providers (physicians and nurse practitioners) to more quickly connect with specialists to receive patient-specific advice through a brief phone consultation scheduled using the platform. This process allows for quick and efficient specialist input on a patient’s condition and care plan, helping to streamline patient care while ensuring appropriateness of referrals to specialists’ service for follow-up, in-person care.
As part of the consultation process, specialists indicate their availability for brief consults on the Virtual Hallway platform. Primary care providers can then schedule a phone call with the specialist based on the list of their available dates and times. Appointment availability varies between within 24 hours to a few days. Access to the platform is available to all Health PEI physicians and nurse practitioners at no cost to them.
There are currently 93 registered users on Virtual Hallway, including 72 primary care providers and 21 specialists. Primary care providers can schedule consults with Island specialists in the areas of ADHD (pediatrics), geriatric medicine, hematology – medical oncology, internal medicine, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, otolaryngology, pain management, pediatrics, palliative care, psychiatry, urology, vascular medicine/surgery. The list of available specialists is anticipated to expand as use of the platform increases.
Since the platform launched on May 1, 2023, there have been 32 Virtual Hallway consultations between registered Prince Edward Island primary care providers and specialists.
Prince Edward Island hopes to expand the platform use to include out-of-province specialists in the coming months.
“The addition of Virtual Hallway is transformative for our health care system. It is an innovative way to deliver care that benefits both Islanders and the health care providers involved. This is a collaborative, solution-based approach to that enhances and expedites referral processes in Prince Edward Island.”
– Mark McLane, Minister of Health and Wellness.
“Virtual Hallway will be extremely valuable to Island health care as it provides a fast and easy way to connect family physicians and nurse practitioners with specialty services in real time. The kinds of quick hallway consults that happen in hospitals and improve patient care are now available virtually, giving primary care teams more access to support and ultimately benefiting patients.” – Dr. Kathie McNally, Health PEI Chief Medical Officer.
“This is an excellent example of standing up new and innovative ideas during a time when we know how challenging it is for patients to access the care they need. It’s a new tool in our toolbox, and it will be important to assess the impact it is having for both patients and providers going forward. We hope to see more initiatives such as this in the months ahead.” – Dr. Krista Cassell, president, Medical Society of Prince Edward Island.
“Virtual Hallway has allowed me to connect with Island specialists during a time that suits both parties. Because it is a scheduled meeting, I don’t feel rushed and I’m able to ask all necessary questions. My patients are benefiting from it as I am able to order the correct tests and prescribe the right medications immediately without having to wait to see a specialist in the office.” – Dr. Laura Heron, family physician, Kinlock Medical Centre.
“I like this platform, first of all, because the consultation is arranged ahead of time and I can look at the patient’s relevant information, x-rays or bloodwork and even their medications, to have a better-informed opinion when consulting with their primary care provider. The biggest advantage is the opportunity to help with patient management early on for those patients who will not get to see a specialist very quickly. The waitlist for my clinic is long, and Virtual Hallway can help identify patients who may require extra testing or referral for more complex procedures ahead of time, ensuring more timely and appropriate access to the health care system. In some cases, it can also help reduce the need for possible tests that will not be helpful for a certain condition, thereby decreasing wait times for other patients needing to access testing. Overall, the consultation with the primary care provider through Virtual Hallway can give better understanding of the nature of the patient’s ailments and of their life situation to better triage and manage their care as they wait to see the specialist.” – Dr. Tim Fitzpatrick, anaesthesiologist practicing in pain medicine.
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. Learn more about Virtual Hallway.
Department of Health and Wellness