Private company launches fee-for-service telehealth in P.E.I.

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Private company launches fee-for-service telehealth in P.E.I.

Private company launches fee-for-service telehealth in P.E.I.

A private company that offers fee-for-service contact with doctors using online, messaging, video or telephone connections is now operating on P.E.I.

Maple launched its first service in Ontario last year, and is now operating in five provinces.

Co-founder and CEO Dr. Brett Belchetz said Maple isn't a replacement for primary care.

Maple doctors can prescribe medications like antibiotics, but don't prescribe controlled medications, and Belchez said the service isn't appropriate for chronic care.

"This is something that when you have a need that your family doctor is not available for," he said.

"You just need to get a doctor's advice to figure out do I need to go to the emergency room for, or is this something that I can get quick treatment for, or is this something that I can wait a few days to see my family doctor for, or is this something that I just need a doctor's advice right now."

Unlimited service available

Belchetz said P.E.I. doctors with Maple are able to see patients under provincial regulations. He said there are currently fewer than 10 P.E.I. doctors working with Maple.

During business hours (Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. AT), a visit costs $49, or customers can sign up for unlimited visits for $359 a year.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of P.E.I. told CBC News the service does meet its licensing requirements. Those requirements state that any physicians providing telehealth services to patients on P.E.I. must hold a license to practice medicine on P.E.I. 

The P.E.I. Department of Health says it is committed to improving access to publically-funded primary care services. It says it has not been contacted by Maple, and can't comment on the service until it knows more about it.

Health P.E.I. does offer a telehealth service, accessible by dialing 811. The free service connects people to a registered nurse who can provide advice on whether to seek emergency care, provide general health information, and guidance about health services in the province.

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