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Virtual program streamlines care for patients and reduces Emergency Department visits

Posted Nov 23rd, 2022

A new program designed to help patients get the care they need from the right place is having an immediate positive impact on Niagara residents.

Since the SCOPE Niagara program launched in May, more than 70 per cent of patients whose primary care providers use the service have been able to avoid an unnecessary visit to the Emergency Department (ED).

Nearly 100 family physicians and nurse practitioners across the region have registered for SCOPE Niagara – Seamless Care Optimizing the Patient Experience. The program connects family physicians and nurse practitioners to a team of specialists from Niagara Health and from Home and Community Care.

“As one of 16 SCOPE hubs in Ontario, the program, which works closely with primary care providers in Niagara, helps to reduce ED visits and hospital re-admissions,” says Heather Paterson, Interim Executive Vice-President, Clinical Services and Chief Nursing Executive, Niagara Health. “The program allows family physicians and nurse practitioners to phone into the SCOPE nurse navigator to receive quick access to urgent testing for their patients who would have needed to go to the ED otherwise.

“We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from those who have used the service and get a lot of repeat calls from family physicians,” says Sarah Furnival, SCOPE Nurse Navigator. “One of the biggest benefits of utilizing the program is the variety of care and options that we can help to provide family physicians and nurse practitioners in the community. We can help with essentially anything. The uptake has been great and we want to continue getting the word out to continue to reduce unnecessary ED visits.

Since the program’s launch, SCOPE Niagara has received more than 160 calls which vary in nature, such as requests for support with general internal medicine and diagnostic imaging.

“SCOPE Niagara allows me to manage vulnerable, medically complex clients in the outpatient setting, preventing unnecessary ED visits and facilitating treatment in familiar settings,” says Michelle Goodburn, Nurse Practitioner, Quest Community Health Centre. “This is essential for my client population who face many challenges including poor mental health, substance use and insecure housing, resulting in poor tolerance for lengthy visits to the ED. The service is easy to navigate, response times are quick, and staff are personable and helpful.”

SCOPE Niagara is a partnership with Niagara Health, Home and Community Care and Niagara Practitioners Healthcare Alliance (NHPA), with the support of the Niagara Ontario Health Team - Équipe Santé Ontario Niagara.

Niagara Health System