‘From the time I accessed the website to seeing someone, it took 45 minutes from the comfort of my own home.’ — Niagara Virtual Urgent Care patient – Niagara Health News, Updates & Publications | Niagara Health System

Every day, residents and visitors log on to their home computers, tablets, and smartphones to access Niagara Virtual Urgent Care and give the service all-star ratings.

Niagara Virtual Urgent Care, which launched in March, is for adults who have a non-life-threatening, urgent medical condition or health condition and do not have a primary care physician or cannot wait for a scheduled doctor’s appointment.

It offers a safe, high-quality care option over a secure video connection that patients can access from the comfort of their own home. Patients can book same-day appointments between 9am and 4:30pm at a time that suits their schedule without having to wait in an online or phone queue to be seen.

Ninety percent of patients using virtual emergency care avoid an unnecessary emergency department (ED) visit. For virtual appointments that require more care, the service seamlessly integrates with Niagara Health’s personal emergency care, making it easier for patients to access additional healthcare services within the hospital.

During a virtual visit, healthcare providers assess a patient’s condition and recommend treatment. If they determine that a physical exam or diagnostic tests are needed, patients can be referred to the nearest emergency room, where they can continue their visit without having to repeat their situation.

Patients who have used Niagara Virtual Urgent Care have been grateful for the care they have received and would like to help spread the word. Here are some of their stories.

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Monique Finley, Welland

An older woman with wavy hair smiles at the camera.

Monique Finley needed reassurance that she hadn’t broken a bone after a fall earlier in the summer.

But without a GP, Monique had to find another way to calm herself. Aware of the pressure on staff in local emergency rooms, she was reluctant to spend much time waiting for care, especially as the seventh wave of the COVID-19 pandemic worsened.

Luckily, friends pointed her to a low-stress option that’s accessible from home: Niagara Virtual Urgent Care.

Using the online booking portal was easy, she recalls, and the visit to a nurse happened shortly after the appointment was made, on the same day.

“From the moment I accessed the website until I met someone, it took 45 minutes from the comfort of my home,” says Monique. “I was excited.”

During her video call with the nurse, Monique was asked to manipulate her hand and report on the level of pain. After 10 minutes of assessment and observation of Monique, the Nurse Practitioner provided her assessment including treatment, information on worsening symptoms and next steps.

Monique was reassured.

“It reassured me that if some things happen, it is very unlikely that a bone is broken, how to deal with it and what to do. I was very reassured,” she says. “It was a call from a qualified person that really put my mind at ease and I found this to be a fantastic service in every way and an alternative to a busy ER.”

Rebecca Oehler, St. Catherine

A family portrait of a man and woman holding their young daughter

Rebecca Oehler (right) used Niagara Virtual Urgent Care to find answers to her family’s health challenges.

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As a busy working mom, Rebecca Oehler knows that making space in her schedule for health appointments can be a challenge.

She also knows that not every health issue that runs in her family requires an in-person visit to a doctor, although she sometimes needs help navigating her husband, daughter, and herself through rashes, coughs, and other issues.

Because of this, Niagara Virtual Urgent Care “changed everything for us,” says Rebecca. “If someone I know is sick, I’ll send them a link to the service.”

It’s a service she and her family have used with confidence a number of times since its launch last spring. Rebecca, who has asthma, was quick to answer her questions, including the time her daughter had a rash and her husband developed cold-like symptoms this summer. She consulted a Niagara Health Nurse Practitioner through the virtual service to get the information she needed. Rebecca also knows that if symptoms change and follow-up is needed, she can easily reschedule.

“I need to know fast because things can take a bad turn,” says Rebecca. “(The Nurse Practitioner) has been so wonderful every time. She listened to us so well but also said what to expect.”

And she does it in a clear and friendly way, she notes.

“She is so compassionate and knowledgeable and gives advice that is easy to follow and understand. It’s one thing to know what to expect, but another to know if that’s why,” says Rebecca. “Being able to understand why something is happening gives me the knowledge to take care of myself. She is a great communicator.”

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Jane Greig-Hatton, Niagara-on-the-Lake

An elderly woman with glasses and curly hair smiles brightly at the camera

Nobody was more surprised that she tested positive for COVID-19 in June than Jane Greig-Hatton.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake resident had attended a convention with her husband but had no symptoms of the respiratory illness when she underwent a rapid antigen test to ensure she was safe to visit friends over the weekend of her return.

When her test results showed otherwise, the 76-year-old wondered if she should be given access to Paxlovid, the antiviral drug used to treat certain cases of COVID-19. But Jane got no clear answers.

While researching online, an ad for Niagara Virtual Urgent Care popped up. Jane took it as a sign. She booked an appointment for Monday morning.

Jane spoke to a nurse who then put her through to the emergency room (ED) doctor on duty at the time. She was told to continue her visit to her nearest emergency room, where she received a PCR test confirming her rapid antigen test results and the treatment prescribed.

“I was treated very well in the hospital. They knew I was coming and put me in a room away from other people,” says Jane. “When I was cold, they brought me a blanket because I was already showing symptoms at that point. I had faith in the nurse and doctor that I was in the right place. This confidence comes from the Nurse Practitioner speaking to you. She was so knowledgeable and got that second opinion. It’s great service.”

Ready to book your appointment at Niagara Virtual Urgent Care? Visit Niagara Health Emergency and Urgent Care to learn more.

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