Virtual service diverts 70% of needless visits to Niagara hospitals’ emergency departments

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Published November 24, 2022 at 12:07 pm

Just as every other service offered virtual online help during the pandemic, Niagara Health launched one in May that they estimate has diverted over 70 per cent of potential patients away from their already-burdened emergency wards.

SCOPE Niagara was created as a “local, virtual interprofessional care team that supports primary care providers through a single point of access.”

In Niagara, nearly 100 family physicians and nurse practitioners across the region have registered with SCOPE (Seamless Care Optimizing the Patient Experience) through which they can connect to a team of specialists from Niagara Health and from Home and Community Care.

“As one of 16 SCOPE hubs in Ontario, the program, which works closely with primary care providers in Niagara, helps to reduce ED visits and hospital re-admissions,” says Heather Paterson, Interim Executive Vice-President, Clinical Services and Chief Nursing Executive, Niagara Health.

“The program allows family physicians and nurse practitioners to phone into the SCOPE nurse navigator to receive quick access to urgent testing for their patients who would have needed to go to the ED otherwise.

Thus far, the service has received a lot of positive feedback from those who have used the service and get a lot of repeat calls from family physicians.

Sarah Furnival, SCOPE Nurse Navigator, noted, “One of the biggest benefits of utilizing the program is the variety of care and options that we can help to provide family physicians and nurse practitioners in the community. We can help with essentially anything. The uptake has been great and we want to continue getting the word out to continue to reduce unnecessary ED visits.”

Since the program’s launch, SCOPE Niagara has received more than 160 calls which vary in nature, such as requests for support with general internal medicine and diagnostic imaging.

“SCOPE Niagara allows me to manage vulnerable, medically complex clients in the outpatient setting, preventing unnecessary ED visits and facilitating treatment in familiar settings,” says Michelle Goodburn, Nurse Practitioner, Quest Community Health Centre.

“This is essential for my client population who face many challenges including poor mental health, substance use and insecure housing, resulting in poor tolerance for lengthy visits to the ED. The service is easy to navigate, response times are quick, and staff are personable and helpful.”

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