A shortage of doctors in communities across Ontario is making long wait times in walk-in clinic waiting rooms even longer. But as frustrated patients are struggling to get access to medical care when they need it, a Canadian technology company is hoping to provide a solution.
First launched in 2018, Medimap is a website that partners with community walk-in clinics to provide easily accessible, real-time updates on wait times, hours, and patient capacity.
It’s a resource company officials are hoping to keep expanding to Sudbury.
“We’re trying to make information more readily available to people so that they can hopefully get faster access to care,” said CEO Blake Adam. “It seems like a real no-brainer that there should be this online resources where you can look up real-time availability without having to call or drive around, where you can get easy access to pretty much every type of information you want online.”
According to Adam, the company partners directly with clinic officials, who then use their software to upload information that patients may need. Patients can then use the website to search clinics in their community.
Not only can they browse through the nearest available options, they can also see how long the wait will be, and use that information to find the quickest access to care.
“We’re constantly getting feedback from people, hearing what a lifesaver this has been for them,” said Adam. “A mom with a kid, who’s had the experience of bounding around from clinic to clinic getting turned away because they closed early for the day and ending up in the emergency department unnecessarily, is a frequent story.
"For those people, we constantly hear that this is just a total game-changer in terms of making things much easier for them when they need to see a doctor.”
The tool could prove especially useful now, said Adam, because of an ongoing shortage of doctors, including family physicians, that have more and more patients turning towards clinics as a first resort.
According to NOSM University, Northern Ontario is currently short more than 300 doctors, half of which are family physicians. As recently as 2021, the city of Sudbury was short at least seven family doctors needed to fill a growing gap in care that has left thousands of residents without a primary point of care.
The crisis has only worsened as the pandemic has overburdened health care systems, and doctors retire in large numbers.
According to Adam, Medimap not only alleviates frustration for patients, but also helps clinics use their resources more efficiently.
“Clinics are absolutely slammed,” he said. “Reception staff at these clinics are usually totally inundated with calls throughout the day about their wait times, so this is saving them a bunch of time.
"It can help to make things more efficient for them and just deliver a better patient experience.”
Adam said that’s a benefit to the entire health-care system, allowing clinics to divert patients to areas with greater capacity, giving each facility more time to dedicate to providing quality care.
So far, Medimap has partnered with about half of all walk-in clinics in Sudbury and a handful of others across the rest of northeastern Ontario. The company said it is currently “actively working” on expanding its services in the Greater Sudbury region.
“We’d like to connect and partner with more clinics,” they said. “If there are clinics that are currently not using Medimap, our goal is to make sure all clinics are using our site so that patients can easily get the care they need.”
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star