Blog - eHealth Centre of Excellence

Digital Health News

We’ve had another busy and productive year here at the eHealth Centre of Excellence, and we’re proud of what our team and partners across the community have achieved. We’d like to share a few of our highlights from 2019.


We were delighted when our Managing Director, Dr. Mohamed Alarakhia, was recognized as this year’s recipient of the Canadian Health Informatics Award (CHIA) Digital Health Executive of the Year. Well deserved!


Our team was out spreading the word on the benefits of digital health adoption. We presented at several events and conferences, including but not limited to:

  • eHealth Canada 2019
  • AFHTO (Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario) – where we received top marks for best group presentation for our talk on our digital health toolbox!  Presentation pictured right.
  • And most recently, we participated in the eConsult Centre of Excellence forum

eCE team at AFHTO


Our digital health tools also hit some big milestones! Read more below:


Virtual Visits


There have been over 18,000 virtual visits (as of December 15, 2019) in the Waterloo Wellington region since our program launched in March 2018 – the most in any region in the province!


We were featured in the Waterloo Record and on 570 News!


In May, the virtual visits team received the Patient Care Innovation Team Award at the 2019 Canadian Health Informatics Awards (CHIA) Gala and in November, received a jury-selected ITAC Ingenious Award for our work. Thank you to the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) and Think Research for being great partners.


                            Virtual visits award




In the Waterloo Wellington region alone, nearly 12,000 eConsults have been sent since we launched the program locally in October 2016, with the eConsult Centre of Excellence providing great leadership. 


Click here for an updated list of specialists from our region who are currently accepting eConsults. 


The OTN eConsult platform underwent a big upgrade in November, enabling clinicians to access their local specialty groups more efficiently.




We expanded the forms available in tablets to include not only mental health assessments but other questionnaires as well. Patients are now available to update their personal information in the tablet. All information entered into a tablet is uploaded directly to the provider’s EMR.


All Community Health Centres (CHCs) in Waterloo Wellington are now using tablets!


EMR Tools & Coaching


Our Community Portal launched! You can now download our EMR supports directly from the portal, and make use of the community forum to ask questions and provide feedback.


We made some great new updates for two of our EMR tools: the palliative care toolkit and our lower back pain tool.


EHR Tools


For 2019 latest about the Electronic Health Record, take a look at the latest connecting South West Ontario (cSWO) newsletter!





As of December 15, 2019, over 93,000 eReferrals have been sent through the Ocean eReferral Network, the solution supported by our System Coordinated Access (SCA) program since we launched in August 2017! We would like to thank Think Research, CognisantMD, and the Centre for Effective Practice for the great collaborative effort.


In a recent survey (with more than 1500 participants), 96% of patients agreed that eReferral is an easy process and that eReferral notifications improve the patient experience.


                              Patient testimonial


We're looking forward to seeing what 2020 will bring! One thing is for sure: the future of healthcare is here.

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We are excited to share that the eHealth Centre of Excellence’s Virtual Visits: Delivering Primary Care through Innovation has been judged as an ITAC (Information Technology Association of Canada) Ingenious Award winner in the SME Public/Not-for-Profit Category.


The ITAC Ingenious Awards were created to recognize all of the very best applications of technology from all corners of Canada and from all sectors, and to celebrate innovation and excellence. Thank you to ITAC and to the jury of judges for this honour – we are extremely proud of the work that our team is doing with patients and clinicians.


View the press release from ITAC here.


View more about the virtual visits award here.


We also recognize that we couldn’t lead this important work without continued support from our partners across the community. In particular, we’d like to extend our gratitude to the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) and Think Research for their collaborations on this project.


ITAC Ingenious awards ceremony



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We were delighted to have our virtual visits program featured in the Waterloo Record and on 570 News!


From the Record article: 


As the province pledges more funding to expand virtual care by doctors, this region is already embracing technology to make primary health care more convenient.


Since a pilot project launched in March 2018, nearly 17,000 virtual visits have been made in Waterloo Wellington — the most virtual visits in any region across the province.


Read more here!


Our Managing Director, Dr. Mohamed Alarakhia, was interviewed on the Mike Farwell show on 570 News Kitchener:


You can listen to the entire program here. (The interview took place on November 20)



These interviews come on the heels of the provincial announcement earlier this month that the first phase of the "Digital First for Health" strategy will focus on virtual care, with about 55,000 more video visits over the next year and $3 million in funding to compensate physicians.


Christine Elliott virtual visits announcement



Any Ontario Health Team (OHT) who is interested in the work we’re doing here should feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] – we are happy to share what we’ve learned with you.




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It’s official! Our Quality Based Improvements in Care (QBIC) team is celebrating 10,000 virtual visits! Virtual visits allow healthcare providers to ‘see’ their patients over a secure, online communication system via chat messaging, phone or video. Virtual visits help reduce avoidable in-person visits, decrease walk-in utilization and securely send requisitions directly to the patient.


For more information on Virtual Visits, click here.


Thank you to everyone for your dedication, involvement & ongoing collaboration.


Are you interested in learning more about Virtual Visits?


Email [email protected] to get started!

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What are Virtual Visits?


Virtual Visits allow  Primary Care Providers to ‘see’ their patients over a secure, online communication system via chat messaging, phone or video. Currently, in Waterloo-Wellington LHIN, virtual visits allows both patient and provider to initiate a visit.

Virtual Visits provide a great option for ‘seeing’ patients that do not need to be seen in-person, reducing avoidable emergency department visits for concerns that can be addressed by primary care, improving both provider and patient satisfaction.


What are patients saying about their experience?


Patients are seeing the value in Virtual Visits! A majority of patients said that seeing their primary care provider through a virtual visit saved them time and made accessing care more convenient (92%).  


In a recent survey, 92% noted that  their experience with Virtual Visits was better than or the same as an in-person visit with 89% of patients saying that they  would recommend Virtual Visits to friends and family.


Attitude on Virtual Visit Experience statistics image



What are Primary Care Providers saying about Virtual Visits?


Virtual Visits are perceived as an efficient way to see patients who do not need an in-person visit. Based on a recent survey with primary care providers who are using virtual visits, 83 % believe in the potential of virtual visits to enhance their capacity to see patients in a timely manner and enhance the quality of care they provide to their patients. Data on the virtual visits conducted illustrates that 83% of patient-initiated visits were responded to by primary care within 24 hours and 93% by 48 hours.


Based on its impact to efficiently see patients, 58% of primary care providers believe that virtual visits have the potential to enhance their capacity to see more patients within a day.


Virtual Visits bring patients and  primary care providers together in a setting that saves time and resources, in addition to supporting the quality of care for patients where and when they need it.



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Did you miss our webinar on Virtual Care? We've included the presentation deck and video for Big White Wall that was featured in the presentation.




Virtual care allows patients to securely connect with their health care providers online. In this presentation, the QBIC program will provide an overview of various online solutions, including Virtual Visits, PCVC, and Big White Wall, and how they can support both patients and providers in the region.



Download the PowerPoint presentation here.





Big White Wall Video




Have a question? Please email: [email protected] or [email protected].


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Since its launch in March 2018, a total of 40 primary care physicians have been registered for the virtual visits platform, VirtualCare!


The innovative solution offers new ways for providers to securely communicate with patients via chat messaging, phone or video call. Close to 1600 patients in Waterloo Wellington have been registered so far and over 1100 visits have been completed. Using the website or mobile app, patients can send a message or request a virtual appointment with their primary care provider to renew a prescription, discuss chronic condition(s) or new health issue/symptoms, and for health education among other reasons.


What does usage look like to date?


  • 38% of virtual visits were initiated by primary care providers to follow-up on previous in-person appointments, discuss lab results and medication. 

  • 90% of all virtual visits completed were conducted via chat messaging or phone call.



The year-long Proof of Concept, in partnership with the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), will be rolled out to additional physicians and nurse practitioners across the Waterloo Wellington LHIN by the eHealth Centre of Excellence (eCE), with the hopes of increasing capacity in primary care practices and improving the patient and provider experience.


Physicians participating in VirtualCare describe it as a user-friendly platform that allows them to easily answer questions and "see" patients for appropriate concerns, without them having to come into the clinic,  saving them both time and resources.


Some of the latest VirtualCare features:

  • Patient self-registration
  • Patient and Provider mobile app
  • New role for NP’s and Delegates


If you are interested in signing up for virtual visits or looking for more information, please contact Meghan Brenner-Burgoyne


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What is a virtual visit?


Virtual visits allow healthcare providers to ‘see’ their patients over a secure, online communication system via chat messaging, phone or video.


We’re working with the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) and Think Research to create a virtual visits platform for residents in the Waterloo Wellington region.


So far, 23 primary care providers and 18 administrative staff members have registered for virtual visits, and together they have signed up 289 patients (with 213 more invited to use the virtual visit solution).


Since going live with the solution at the end of March, 205 virtual visits have already been completed!


For more on our virtual visits program (including information about how to get involved), please click here.







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This past Monday, virtual visits went LIVE in Waterloo Wellington!


Meghan Brenner-Burgyone























What are some common types of virtual visits?

  • Follow-up on lab or diagnostic imaging results
  • Prescription renewal
  • Sinus infection
  • Pink eye
  • Sick notes
  • Mental health
  • Chronic back pain
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Cold and flu symptoms
  • Skin conditions
  • Chronic condition management



For more information on our virtual visits program, please click here.


Interested in using virtual visits in your practice? Please contact eHealth Centre of Excellence Change Management Specialist Meghan Brenner-Burgoyne to get started!



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As we mentioned on our blog not too long ago, virtual visits will be coming soon to Waterloo Wellington!


Recently, this exciting news was profiled by a number of media outlets, including the Waterloo Record and CBC Kitchener. And check out an interview with our Director Dr. Mohamed Alarakhia (and a peek at some of the eHealth Centre of Excellence team!) in this feature that aired on CTV Kitchener.


The eHealth Centre of Excellence, in partnership with the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) will be rolling out virtual visits across Waterloo Wellington in a year-long pilot co-funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) and REACH (Resources for Evaluating, Adopting and Capitalizing on Innovative Healthcare Technology). REACH is an $8.2-million grant funding program being delivered by the Ontario Centres of Excellence on behalf of Ontario's Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.


The pilot is expected to begin in February 2018. Keep watching this space for updates!


If you have questions in the meantime, or are interested in getting involved in the pilot project, please contact QBIC Change Management Specialist Meghan Brenner-Burgyone



VENDOR ANNOUNCEMENT: We are pleased to announce that the successful vendor to support the eVisit Primary Care pilot in the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network (WWLHIN) is Think Research, a Toronto-based company that offers a number of clinical tools that connect patients and clinicians to each other while facilitating best practices. Please see below for more details.









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Hannele Kivinen
January 11, 2022
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