May 11, 2022

Virtual ED expands as it reaches 200 patients per day

Our Virtual Emergency Department, now expanding to become the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED), has reached a milestone of 200 patients a day!

Northern Hospital Epping has been designing and developing the virtual emergency service since October 2020. Initially a pilot project born during the early days of the pandemic, it is now expanding in stages to service a wider region.

The team is closely collaborating with Ambulance Victoria to get more ambulances back on the road, whilst relieving pressure on our Emergency Department (ED) staff. The results are already showing, with 87 per cent of people referred to the virtual service avoiding a trip in an ambulance to the hospital ED.

Dr Loren Sher, Director Victorian Virtual Emergency Department, says this is an important landmark for the team.

“We are so excited and looking forward to seeing many more patients. The current figures give us a sense of how far we’ve come. We’ve started as a small project, seeing around 15-25 patients a day, and the current numbers are phenomenal,” she said.

Approximately 60 per cent of patients using VVED are self-presenting patients, and about 40 per cent of patients are from Ambulance Victoria or other health services. More than half of the patients being treated virtually have COVID-19.

“Patients are presenting from across the state, which is fantastic to see. Currently, Ambulances and COVID patients can connect to VVED from anywhere in the state. In terms of non-COVID patients, we are currently accepting patients from northern and eastern suburbs, including patients from Austin Hospital and St. Vincent’s Hospital catchment areas and expanding to the Hume region,” Loren explains.

The Hume expansion is part of the strategic partnership through the northern corridor.

Dr Bill Shearer, Executive Director, Quality and Safety, said, ‚ÄúNorthern Health developed the Virtual ED in response to the growing demand pressures on Emergency Departments and Ambulance Victoria resources. Now, together with Ambulance Victoria, Public Health Networks (PHNs) and health service partners across the Hume region, we are fast-tracking the rollout of the VVED in the region. We are committed to supporting patients and health care providers from the region by ensuring they have access to care via the Virtual Emergency Department in a safe and convenient way.”

VVED’s phased expansion approach is designed to match the patient demand with the amount of VVED staff.

“We have over 100 staff at the VVED for medical, and 25-30 nursing staff. We are a large team of around 150 people working together. Not everybody works full-time, but we all work passionately to support the virtual care model,” Loren explains.

Dr Sher adds the team is on an exciting journey, and working on ways to maximise the utilisation of digital health in the community, as well as monitoring the impact of VVED to relieve the pressures in the Emergency Department.

“We enjoy helping patients receive emergency care from home. The feedback we get is generally amazing. Patients love the service and tell us they feel reassured by it. It saves them time in many instances. Patients are grateful for the service, as most of the time we can manage them at home, and provide advice and referrals. Most patients find amazing that they don’t have to get in the car and come here, especially at night or with children,” she explains.

Under the program, COVID-positive patients can also be referred to the service through the COVID Positive Pathways program which helps Victorians recover from the virus at home.