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Virtual doctors visits present advantages for rural residents: LRHF CEO

The CEO of the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation says Alberta’s new rules for virtual medical appointments will present advantages for rural residents.

Recently the Alberta Government announced they would be allowing virtual doctors visits, over the phone or online, to remain a way for patients to be in touch with their physician permanently. The method was originally opened in March as a way to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure for patients.

Malcolm Radke explains that this will not only save rural residents a long trip for shorter appointments, but it will also help in areas that might face doctor shortages.

“If you look at Lloydminster and other communities its size, physician recruitment and retention is always going to be a challenge. Now, basically, as I understand it, you can visit almost any doctor in Alberta virtually now. So [there’s] a lot more options for those rural and remote community residents, and then for their doctors, the ability to schedule a bit more fluidly.”

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Radke adds that having the option to digitally schedule some medical appointments will also help cut down wait times.

One unique challenge Lloydminster’s bi-provincial status presents is that many residents hold Saskatchewan health cards, but may also want to have a physician on the Alberta side, and make use of this virtual program. Radke says that this is something the LRHF is conscious of when it comes to their patients.

“There’s always some leeway, just usually we have specifically request it, and kind of manually override the protocols. So, usually, it takes a little bit of time in our unique Lloydminster bi-provincial community  to get those exceptions kind of built in to any provincial legislation, but like just like anything else, we’re working on and I don’t think it’s anything that can’t be overcome.”

In-person and specialist care will continue in Alberta, with the virtual program being used when appropriate. The virtual visits will also not be limited to the province’s daily patient visit cap for doctors.

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