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Virtual urgent care is here to stay: driving toward safe, equitable, and sustainable integration within emergency medicine.

CJEM 2024 Februrary 10
BACKGROUND: Virtual care in Canada rapidly expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic in a low-rules environment in response to pressing needs for ongoing access to care amid public health restrictions. Emergency medicine specialists now face the challenge of advising on which virtual urgent care services ought to remain as part of comprehensive emergency care. Consideration must be given to safe, quality, and appropriate care as well as issues of equitable access, public demand, and sustainability (financial and otherwise). The aim of this project was to summarize current literature and expert opinion and formulate recommendations on the path forward for virtual care in emergency medicine.

METHODS: We formed a working group of emergency medicine physicians from across Canada working in a variety of practice settings. The virtual care working group conducted a scoping review of the literature and met monthly to discuss themes and develop recommendations. The final recommendations were circulated to stakeholders for input and subsequently presented at the 2023 Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) Academic Symposium for discussion, feedback, and refinement.

RESULTS: The working group developed and reached unanimity on nine recommendations addressing the themes of system design, equity and accessibility, quality and patient safety, education and curriculum, financial models, and sustainability of virtual urgent care services in Canada.

CONCLUSION: Virtual urgent care has become an established service in the Canadian health care system. Emergency medicine specialists are uniquely suited to provide leadership and guidance on the optimal delivery of these services to enhance and complement emergency care in Canada.

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