Province expands online family doctor services

People in central and eastern Nova Scotia who are on the Need a Family Practice Registry will start receiving invitations for VirtualCareNS next week.

VirtualCareNS gives people on the registry the option to access a primary-care provider online. It is a free program for patients delivered through Maple – one of Canada’s leading virtual-care platforms – with Nova Scotia primary-care providers.

“Nova Scotians have made it clear that access to healthcare is a priority,” said Premier Tim Houston. “We know we need to do things differently, and virtual care is an efficient way of making sure every Nova Scotian on the registry has access to primary care while we focus on recruitment efforts and other improvements.”

The government is investing $1.3 million in the expansion of VirtualCareNS, which is already available in the Northern and Western health zones.

Beginning Monday, December 13, Nova Scotia Health will be contacting people who live in Central and Eastern zones by email, starting in communities with the largest number of people on the registry. People who have been on the registry the longest will be contacted first. Anyone who wants to update their email address on file can call 811 to do so.

To be eligible for VirtualCareNS, people must:
— be on the Need a Family Practice Registry
— hold a valid Nova Scotia health card number
— be able to access the internet through a computer or mobile device
— have an email address that they regularly use
— be in the province when accessing VirtualCareNS.

During a virtual appointment, primary-care providers can prescribe medications, order tests and make referrals for specialized care. If a patient’s health concerns can’t be resolved virtually, they will be provided with options for in-person care.

The VirtualCareNS pilot program launched in Northern and Western zones last spring. People on the Need a Family Practice Registry in those zones with an email address on file have been invited to join VirtualCareNS. Those without an email address on file soon will receive a letter by mail with more information on how to participate.

“Beginning the expansion of VirtualCareNS into the Central and Eastern zones ensures that every Nova Scotian on the Need a Family Practice Registry will have timely access to a family doctor or nurse practitioner to receive the care that they need. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both patients and providers about this initiative and are continuously looking at ways to enhance virtual care options for Nova Scotians.”
     – Gail Tomblin Murphy, Vice-President, Research, Innovation and Discovery, and Chief Nurse Executive, Nova Scotia Health

“Virtual care enables us to provide timely care and bridge the access gap for people who are unattached. We continue to recruit more family physicians and nurse practitioners to provide care through VirtualCareNS so we can ensure that everyone on the Need a Family Practice Registry can access care virtually until they are connected to a family practice.”
     – Dr. Maria Alexiadis, Senior Medical Director, Primary Health Care and Chronic Disease Management Network, Nova Scotia Health, and family physician, VirtualCareNS

“Since the launch of the pilot program earlier this year, we’ve seen tremendous success in bringing accessible care to Nova Scotians in the Northern and Western zones. We’re proud to continue working with Nova Scotia Health to expand the program into the Central and Eastern zones and to continue to deliver an exceptional virtual care experience for patients and providers across the province.”
     – Shelly-Ann Rampersad, Vice-President of Clinical Operations, Maple

Quick Facts:
— since launching in Northern and Western zones in May, 10,293 people have registered for a VirtualCareNS account and 3,778 virtual visits have taken place
— there are now 29 primary-care providers (25 family physicians and four nurse practitioners) delivering care through VirtualCareNS, with more providers to be added
— expanding VirtualCareNS addresses the mandate of the Minister of Health and Wellness to provide Nova Scotians on the Need a Family Practice Registry with access to a virtual-care service
— as of December 1, there were 82,088 Nova Scotians on the registry

Additional Resources:
More information about VirtualCareNS is available at:

Mandate letter of the Minister of Health and Wellness:

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