Health P.E.I. to expand telehealth services

·2 min read
Islanders without a family doctor can use the Maple telehealth service free of charge. (Carolyn Ryan/CBC - image credit)
Islanders without a family doctor can use the Maple telehealth service free of charge. (Carolyn Ryan/CBC - image credit)

Health P.E.I. says more options are coming for Islanders who don't have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, and want to access health care.

Currently, just over 25,000 people are on P.E.I.'s patient registry — and they are advised to use walk-in clinics, or use Maple — an online health-care service, available for free to those without a primary health-care provider.

But Andrew MacDougall, executive director of community health and seniors care with Health P.E.I., said work is underway to expand those options and make online health care more accessible.

"It's here to stay. So I think we're going to need to develop that," said MacDougall.

"We know there's always going to be certain people who just aren't comfortable with going on a computer. And you know, we're going to need that kind of support. So we're actually right in the throes of doing that right now."

MacDougall said conversations about how that would look are ongoing, but expect added services to include in-person locations for individuals to access health care through Maple, with someone on-site to assist with setup.

He said more needs to be available for anyone who isn't comfortable using online platforms alone — or doesn't have reliable access to high-speed internet.

"For the people that need more hands-on supports and coaching and guidance to be able to access these sorts of platforms," said MacDougall.

"And so what that looks like, we will see, but I can assure it's certainly recognized as a need and it's something that we're actually working on as it complements our range of pathways to care for others."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

He said about 8,000 Islanders have already used Maple since it launched as a fee-for-service health-care option in 2018, with approximately 10,000 appointments.

Since 2020, a pilot program has allowed those without a family doctor to access the Maple service for free.

MacDougall said he recognizes that more is needed for those on P.E.I.'s patient registry. He said Health P.E.I. is committed to both long- and medium-term solutions.

"We do recognize there absolutely needs to be other options besides walk-in clinics and ER departments for Islanders," said MacDougall.

"So as we build the medical home model, which is going to take a considerable period of time, in which there's been a lot of gains, we also need to provide interim supports to bridge that gap. And there will be some additional information forthcoming soon on those particular fronts."