Physicians and other health care providers have consulted with one another for many years, but long waitlists and busy schedules are making it increasingly difficult to find that time together with ease.
That’s why Virtual Hallway, a relatively new online consulting platform designed to accelerate the exchange of clinical knowledge, is gaining momentum on Prince Edward Island.
“We’ve all had patients with issues that might be a little more complex than we’re used to, or an aspect of a patient’s care we’d like to run by a colleague, and that’s where Virtual Hallway comes in,” said Dr. Katie Matheson, an obstetrician/gynecologist (OBGYN) in Charlottetown. “It’s a great option for physicians to consult with one another or get advice to optimize the patient’s care without having to see each other in person or physically send the patient for referral each time.”
Designed by doctors for doctors and other health care providers, Virtual Hallway aims to reduce waitlists and improve patient care by fostering open communication among medical professionals. The platform launched in May 2023 and recently expanded to include specialties in Nova Scotia.
Dr. Matheson says the platform allows her to review questions from her colleagues, study patient
charts and other supporting documentation before replying to the consultation by phone, as well as
documenting the advice within the Virtual Hallway platform.
“In addition to the options of reaching out to the OBGYN on call with urgent questions and referral to the
central OBGYN referral system for a standard consultation, Virtual Hallway now gives us another tool to
help patients access timely care,” Dr. Matheson said. “While it doesn’t diminish the importance of face-to-
face consultation or referrals, this is another tool available to us that’s simple and convenient.”
Dr. Patrick Bergin specializes in internal medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He receives hundreds of referrals each year and the waitlist to see him can feel quite long for some patients. With Virtual Hallway, he’s able to provide family physicians with recommendations or guidance so they can continue to treat their patients without having to necessarily refer them elsewhere.
“I would say anywhere from a third to half of the patients I see in my office I have an idea in advance what I’m going to do for them, having reviewed their file beforehand. That means, in some cases, I could have provided that information to their family physician to continue their treatment directly, rather than having them wait months to come see me,” Dr. Bergin said. “Certainly, there are times when in-person care is absolutely necessary, but not always. Providing timely care is a struggle for the healthcare system right now and this platform definitely helps with that.”
The expanding options for consults on Virtual Hallway currently include specialists in the areas of ADHD (pediatrics), geriatric medicine, hematology–medical oncology, internal medicine, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, otolaryngology, pain management, pediatrics, palliative care, psychiatry, urology, and vascular medicine/surgery.
Both Dr. Matheson and Dr. Bergin said they’re enjoying using the platform as another way to connect with their health care colleagues, and they expect Virtual Hallway will continue to grow in use and popularity as it’s refined.
“When you’re confident you can manage the patient’s care yourself but that five-minute conversation helps make sure you’re on the right track and avoid unnecessarily sending a patient to Nova Scotia, for example, Virtual Hallway is the perfect tool.”
To learn more about Virtual Hallway, visit: https://virtualhallway.ca/