New hotline helps northern B.C. patient care

Medical specialists in larger centres are now a mere phone call away for Vanderhoof’s patients and doctors.

Dr. Dan Horvat

Dr. Dan Horvat

Medical specialists in larger centres are now a mere phone call away, rather than hours of driving or weeks of waiting, for Vanderhoof’s patients and doctors.

This season, the Health and Wellness Innovator of the Year Award in Prince George was presented to Dr. Haidar Hadi and Dr. Dan Horvat for their Northern RACE Line project.

With RACE standing for Rapid Access to Consultative Expertise, the northern B.C. project provides family doctors with a direct phone line, through an automated system, to specialists for quick advice on their patients.

“Northern B.C. is large and travelling is sometimes difficult,” said Horvat, an assistant professor for the Northern Medical Program at the University of Northern British Columbia. “It just makes it easier for family doctors to get advice they need in relatively real-time.

“It improves patient care and decreases the need for travel by patients.”

Developed as part of the Doctors of BC and the provincial government’s Northern Partners in Care initiative, the RACE Line can also help with doctor recruitment and retention in rural parts of the province, Horvat explained.

“Family physicians in smaller communities can feel isolated and it’s not always easy to get the support they need,” he said. “If they’ve got questions and concerns, it’s easier for them to have somebody to turn to.”

Accessed through a 1-800 hotline where doctors can speak directly or leave a message, the project involved specialists based in Prince George, whenever possible, Horvat explained.

“Our intent is to build on the services we have in the north,” he said. “Because if it turns out that somebody needs to be seen, it’s better that they’re speaking to somebody in the north already.”

Specialists in the region are also more in touch with issues that residents of northern B.C. face, he added.

“People in the north know what we do and don’t have in the north, and they understand the travel issues and what it’s like to practise in smaller communities,” Horvat said. “Plus, we want to build the relationships between the GPs and the specialists…another thing that supports the rural GPs (general physicians).

If they know the specialists a bit better, they can contact them.”

Since the project’s inception three years ago, the number of specialties accessible through the RACE Line increased from 1 to 13, with calls growing from eight to 37 per month.

In Vanderhoof, Dr. Nicole Ebert from the Omineca Medical Clinic used the RACE Line and found it useful.

“It gives us quick access to somebody who we can ask,” Ebert said. “Often, we don’t need to send the patient into Prince George.

“We just need to add a couple of questions to ask what our next steps would be, or whether they do need to be seen.”

The phone line saves travel and waiting time, as well as stress, for patients, she said.

“You can have a quick answer to your question, and not have to be worrying or to wait a month before [the patients] are seen and getting a letter back,” Ebert explained. “It really speeds up the process of patient care.”

For example, a doctor may be looking for advice, in terms of further tests or medications, regarding a patient admitted for heart failure.

Reaching a cardiologist through the phone line, the local physician may receive suggestions on medication dosage, and book an appointment for the patient with the specialist in a few months.

“As opposed to them going in for that, and going back in again [for the appointment,]” Ebert explained.

However, the phone line may be limited by the region’s lack of certain specialties.

“There are a few services we don’t have in Prince George that we’d love to be able to call somebody about,” she said. “So we’ll have to call Vancouver, but they don’t always know our circumstances.”

Communicating patient information through the phone may also be a difficulty that can be eventually overcome by technology.

“Talking on the phone is sometimes challenging because you’re trying to relay a lot of information over the telephone,” Ebert said. “Trying to use the electronic record system — making information transfer easier than trying to tell it on the telephone — is something I know they’re looking at.”


Just Posted

People had a chance to interact with different animals at the petting zoo, participate in mutton busting, and buy everything local during the Fall Fair held in 2019. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
55th Fall Fair in Vanderhoof cancelled

Alternative events eyed once again

Grads at Riverside Park in Vanderhoof, B.C. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof celebrates 2021 graduates

NVSS grads got together at Riverside Park on Friday, June 11 in… Continue reading

Singing and drumming was heard in downtown Vanderhoof on Monday, June 14. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Photos: Honour Walk held in Vanderhoof

An honour walk was held Monday June 14 in Vanderhoof, remembering the… Continue reading

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read