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23 August 2021
Many of us know what it is like go to a walk-in clinic or doctor’s appointment and have to wait hours to be seen. For many of our most vulnerable populations, these wait times present issues much more difficult than simply the inconvenience of the wait. Many have to take time off work or pay to have their children taken care of while they go to an appointment. Even then, some don’t have their own cars or don’t have easy access to transit to get to clinics, costing even more time and money.
A team of researchers at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) are in the midst of developing the Telemedicine Scheduling Optimization Project (TSOP), which aims to improve access to health care across Canada through technology.
“Right now, in our initial research, we found that around 60% of hospital visits could be avoided, and that could be huge,” says Amy Lorincz, TSOP project lead and a master’s researcher in experimental surgery. “If we improve the accessibility of care for vulnerable populations through technology, that would change the future of health care.”
The project aims to provide patients with easy access to hospitals and clinics through online virtual consultations. Making doctors’ visits virtual improves efficiency, safety and accessibility to health care for all. The research team uses artificial intelligence algorithms that analyze the data collected during virtual consultations times so that scheduling can be optimized to reduce wait times.
Most significantly, the Telemedicine Scheduling Optimization Project helps those living in rural areas in Canada and Quebec access health care more easily. Many who live outside of large metropolitan cities must travel hours to get to their appointments. With the option for virtual consultations, TSOP will create an easy and efficient way for patients to receive medical care.
This project would not be where it is today without the support of TD Bank Group and the MUHC Foundation. The project was awarded a $350,000 TD Ready Challenge grant for its unique and innovative way of addressing the gaps that exist in health care accessibility and determining what needs to be done to fill those gaps during and after the pandemic.
“It felt really incredible to learn the news. We are over the moon to hear that we were one of the recipients. What my team and I will be able to achieve with the funding will have a huge impact on patient care. It feels so special,” says Lorincz.
Even though the pandemic is coming to an end, the virtual doctors’ visits we have become accustomed to will remain. Thanks to Lorincz and the TSOP team, telemedicine will have a positive impact for years to come.