Nicole Cook

Inspired by her children’s video chats, Clinical Nurse Specialist Nicole Cook went looking for a virtual care solution for her cardiac patients.

As a cardiac clinical nurse specialist working out of Abbotsford Regional Hospital, Nicole Cook would see patients waiting for days for a consultation with an electrophysiology physician. In Fraser Health, that specialty of heart rhythm disorders is found only at Royal Columbian Hospital. After securing an appointment and a bed at Royal Columbian's day cardiac unit, the patient would be sent by ambulance, usually with a nurse escort, sometimes followed by family, for the 100-kilometer round trip. That added up to a stressful and resource-intensive full day.

Average time of the consultation? About 20 minutes.

Nicole used to work at Royal Columbian Hospital so she knew that unit’s perspective as well: always busy, always working to find beds for incoming patients.

"My children talk to their grandparents through FaceTime every week,” she said. “I thought, if toddlers and seniors can do this, why can’t health care providers and patients?”

It was about a year ago that Nicole first started asking “why not?” with encouragement from the electrophysiology physicians and the Fraser Health virtual care team.

The first virtual consultation happened in November as a proof of concept. A patient in Abbotsford along with three family members were able to speak with the specialist and uncover more detail about the patient’s condition – all from the patient’s bed, with only a laptop connected to the Fraser Health network and video conferencing. Since then about 15 electrophysiology consultations have been done virtually, and the intent is to spread the concept throughout the health authority.

Surrey Memorial Hospital recently did their first virtual consultation where not only did the patient and family speak with the electrophysiology physician, but so did Nicole, the patient’s primary physician and nurse, and a nurse practitioner. “It was really a care conference. It was so collaborative and the patient was thrilled – she said she was glad she didn’t have to get packed up in another ambulance.”

“It’s exciting when you have an idea you think could help and it actually works out,” she said. “It’s rare to have a solution like this where it costs basically nothing -- we already have Skype for Business and the equipment -- and it makes everyone happier, the patients and families, doctors and nurses.”

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