“It saved me from the emergency department”: A qualitative study of patient experience of virtual urgent care in Ontario.

“It saved me from the emergency department”: A qualitative study of patient experience of virtual urgent care in Ontario.

Publication date: Sep 22, 2023

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario Ministry of Health introduced a pilot program of 14 virtual urgent care (VUC) initiatives across the province to encourage physical distancing and provision of care by telephone and video-enabled visits. The implementation of the VUC pilot is currently being evaluated by an external academic team. The objective of this study was to understand patient experiences with VUC to determine barriers and facilitators to optimal virtual care as it rapidly expands during the current pandemic and beyond. The qualitative component of the evaluation used one-on-one telephone interviews with patients, families, providers, and program administrators as the main method of data collection. Patient and family participants were invited to participate by the triage nurse after their VUC visit. Data analysis, using thematic analysis, occurred in conjunction with data collection to monitor emerging themes and areas for further exploration. Between April and October 2021, we completed 14 patient and/or family interviews from a representative cross-section of 6 pilot sites. Participants had a range of presenting complaints including infection, injury, medication side effects, and abdominal pain. The vast majority of participants were female (90%), and 70% were VUC patients themselves. Our analysis identified three key themes in the data which characterise patient and family member experience with VUC: a) emphasis on access to the ED; b) efficiency and quality of care; c) obtaining reassurance and next steps. Virtual care options are valued by patients and families; however, the nature of care needed by those accessing VUC and who can best provide that care needs to be evaluated to position it for sustainability. Understanding how virtual care performs from both a provider and patient perspective during the current crisis has implications for designing alternative care options beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Concepts Keywords
Ontario Care
Pandemic Covid
Pilot Current
Therapy Evaluated


Type Source Name
disease MESH emergency
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
disease MESH infection
disease VO efficiency
disease IDO quality
drug DRUGBANK Etodolac
disease VO Canada
drug DRUGBANK Coenzyme M
pathway REACTOME Reproduction
disease VO effectiveness
disease IDO process
drug DRUGBANK Morpholinylmercaptobenzothiazole
disease MESH functional status
disease VO time
disease VO Thing
disease VO efficient
disease MESH panic
drug DRUGBANK Etoperidone
disease IDO symptom
disease VO viable
disease VO dose
disease VO report
drug DRUGBANK Trestolone

Original Article

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