An appointment with a family doctor is now possible without leaving home, thanks to new technology developed in Sarnia.
Dr. John O’Mahony says the virtual care web application he conceived with fellow family physician Dr. Sean Peterson is ideal for this pandemic, and will have many uses after it.
“Nothing can replace an in-person visit with your GP, but our new app is very good for non-emergent care,” he said.
Any patient that can operate email can make the app work on a mobile device, tablet or desktop equipped with a webcam and microphone.
It’s called GetCorigan.ca and it was launched April 28, free to any doctor wanting to offer it to patients.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health has approved a temporary billing code for doctors using it for virtual visits during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“The government recognizes that virtual care is a necessity,” O’Mahony said.
He’s been successfully using GetCorigan for as many as 25 virtual patients visits a day, as well as to communicate with patients for scheduling, follow-ups and referrals.
Last week, the Sarnia Physicians After Hours clinic began assessing patients virtually using GetCorigan — a name that pays homage to O’Mahony’s late sister.
The after-hours clinic at 481 London Rd. involves 25 family doctors caring for more than 50,000 patients.
Virtual visits mean the patient no longer needs to sit in the close quarters of a waiting room for assessment, diagnoses and even treatment, said Dr. O’Mahony said.
The app is also being used to “see” patients at the satellite office of the Rapids Family Health Team Access to Care Centre, which operates Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at 481 London Rd.
Nurse practitioners at the care centre can assess anyone, with or without a family doctor, using the app during the pandemic while reducing stress on the hospital emergency department.
Dr. O’Mahony and Dr. Peterson hired Sarnia digital agency Tmrrw inc. last year to design the app, and paid about $100,000 for its development.
“We both have very large practices – about 9,000 patients between us – and initially all we wanted to do was operate more efficiently,” O’Mahony said.
“What’s the number one concern of patients? It’s can I get in? Can I get an appointment? We wanted to provide better access and care for more patients with something that would give us two-way communication.”
GetCorigan.ca was conceived as a tool to connect patients with all health care providers, including doctors, physiotherapists, dentists, specialists and others.
But the work was fast-tracked when it became obvious a pandemic was coming.
“We shifted gears, working with Tmrrw inc, to focus on virtual visits during COVID-19,” O’Mahony said.
During the rollout, about 80% of his virtual patients had no trouble using the app, he added. “I saw a 90-year-old patient today and she had no problems at all.”
The 20% who might struggle with the technology can telephone “to be walked through it,” he added.