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East Kootenay patients can now see a doctor online from home, even if they don't have a family doctor, with a new service that has launched in B.C.

Medeo is a virtual health care service that launched last January and already has 10,000 patients and 350 family doctors and specialists signed up.

Using a computer, tablet or smart phone with wifi or high-speed internet access, patients with a valid B.C. Care Card can log in to Medeo and ask to see a doctor.

A coordinator video-calls the patient to confirm technology is working properly and to ask the patient to name a lab and pharmacy.

If the patient's regular family doctor is registered with the service, the patient will be connected to their own doctor at a scheduled time.

If not, or if the health matter is urgent, the patient can be connected to another family doctor elsewhere in B.C. There is a doctor available for about 90 per cent of Medeo’s operating hours.

Any orders for lab work or prescriptions are sent to the patient’s chosen lab or pharmacy to be picked up.

There is no cost for the patient, and the doctor is able to bill through the Medical Services Plan (MSP).

On Friday, Feb. 14, Medeo’s vice president of physician services, Colin Meakin, spoke to the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District board of directors about the new service, which could be a solution to the General Practitioner (GP) shortage in Cranbrook.

“The Kootenays are not alone in the GP shortage issue. It rears its head in every part of B.C.,” said Meakin. “The solutions we discuss here have the potential to make a real impact for improving access to health care for everyone in B.C.”

Medeo is open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Meakin said Medeo’s end goal is to have every patient connected to a family doctor.

“Medeo is a platform to assist in a stepping stone to attaching these (orphaned) patients to GPs,” he said.

“Our primary role is to connect patients with their family physician but we also do offer the walk-in model as well.”

Doctors on the platform are suggested to leave a block of time each week to see patients online.

“That physician can actually see more patients in that chunk of time on the Medeo platform than they can in person. It’s a much more efficient way to see a patient,” said Meakin.

Patients can also be referred to see a specialist online.

“We’ve actually had visits where patients see a GP in the morning, and see a dermatologist in the afternoon,” said Meakin.

A B.C. company, Medeo was born out of physicians’ need to use technology to connect with patients. Doctors use Telehealth fee codes to bill MSP.

Hospital board director Ron Toyota, mayor of Creston, said he signed up for Medeo.

“I’m sitting at home at 5.30 in the afternoon, face to face with a doctor in Vancouver, and we had a 15-minute consult. It was all very smooth, very simple. For people who don’t have physicians, it’s going to be a great system,” he said.

Hospital board chair John Kettle said that if Medeo can reduce the number of patients who visit the emergency room because they don’t have access to a family doctor, it will save the hospital district millions of dollars.

“That’s millions of dollars we can put into health care somewhere else,” he said.

“The exciting thing about what you are doing is the fact that patients who really shouldn’t be going to emergency can use this and stay out of our emergency rooms, making them available for people who actually need them.

“It’s like listening to Bill Gates telling people he just invented a computer network in his garage. I have to tell you, I think we are on the cusp of something that is absolutely going to be phenomenal for patients.”

To find out more about Medeo, visit www.medeo.ca.

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