Toronto’s Virtual ED continues with Ontario government funding

Masked nurse
Beginning this fall, people will be able to call 811 to chat with a nurse and then book an appointment with a skilled nurse practitioner from UHN who can diagnose, order tests and prescribe medications. (Photo: UHN)

Toronto’s groundbreaking Virtual Emergency Department (ED) is set to continue thanks to funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health, but how people access it will be different.

Starting this fall, Ontarians will be able to access regional urgent care by calling 811. After speaking with a registered nurse for intake and triage, they will be provided with a link to book an appointment online with a nurse practitioner at UHN or Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Nurse practitioners (NPs) have advanced education, experience, and exam qualifications, enabling them to diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and prescribe medications and treatments. The NP will be able to consult with other UHN team members, including physicians, as needed.

At the end of the virtual visit, patients may be booked for further testing, a follow-up appointment, or a referral to another clinic/specialist. Read more about Health811.

Since its inception in December 2020, UHN’s Virtual ED has been a resounding success, attending to over 5000 patients with non-life-threatening health concerns. Through this innovative approach, nearly 80 per cent of patients were efficiently treated without the need for an in-person visit to the ED.

Dr. Sameer Masood, Emergency physician and UHN’s Director of ED Quality, Safety and Innovation, is enthusiastic about the Virtual ED’s success.

“The Virtual ED has garnered widespread praise from both patients and health care providers,” Dr. Masood says. “In the face of an ongoing health care crisis, it emerges as a pivotal solution, harnessing technology’s potential to enhance access to care.”

Funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health is extended until March 2024, ensuring the continuity of this invaluable resource provided through UHN and Sunnybrook.

The Ontario Government’s commitment to continuing funding for the Virtual ED is warmly welcomed by UHN.

“This cutting-edge collaboration enables us to sustain and enhance this innovative clinical solution, ushering in a new era of patient-centred virtual care,” says Dr. Kevin Smith, UHN’s President & CEO.

“By prioritizing accessibility and efficiency for patients and families, we are reshaping the landscape of urgent and emergent health care delivery, exemplifying our dedication to innovative research and its translation to benefit patients.”

The Virtual ED is accessible to patients aged 18 and older with urgent non-life-threatening health concerns. 

Patients can continue to book their own appointments online by accessing Toronto’s Virtual Emergency Department. A transition to Health811 as a first point of contact will be made at a later date. Further information will be posted at that time.

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