The Ontario CritiCall Program provides the
one-number-to-call for 24 -hour-a-day referral
to physicians caring for seriously ill
patients in Ontario.
‘Medical 9-1-1’The Ontario Critcall Service Proves to be a Valuable Tool for Physicians
Physicians in Ontario community hospitals have a vital link to the resources of larger, more specialized hospitals in their region and the province thanks to a program based in Hamilton.
The Ontario CritiCall Program is an emergency-referral service for hospital-based physicians in the province. It is the one-number-to-call, 24-hour-a-day referral service for physicians caring for seriously ill patients in Ontario. The program is a ‘medical 9-1-1’ for physicians and assists in contacting on-call specialists, arranging for appropriate hospital beds and accessing transportation for patients. CritiCall has been Ontario’s sole emergency patient referral program since 1996.
Here’s how the program works. A physician in a community hospital requires assistance for a critically ill patient in his or her hospital. This ‘sending’ physician calls CritiCall’s 1-800-number where a trained Call Taker contacts a medical specialist at the most appropriate hospital for this particular patient. Once the ‘receiving’ physician is called, the two physicians are connected to discuss the patient’s health status. From there, the physicians determine if the patient can receive the care required where they are or if a transfer to a hospital that provides highly specialized skills – or a tertiary care centre -- is necessary. In many cases, a consultation is all that is needed and the call ends after the doctors talk. However, if the patient requires to be moved to another hospital, CritiCall can help facilitate the transfer.
“The Ontario CritiCall Program facilitates the optimal use of all specialized hospital-based resources in the province,” says Shelley Moneta, CritiCall program manager. “Our goal has been to provide effective resource utilization at all levels of care, promoting health care accessibility to a greater number of people at less overall cost and offering physicians a more efficient use of their time.” In 2003, the program received more than 9,000 physician calls.
In order to operate efficiently and effectively, the Ontario CritiCall Program relies on its internet-based Ontario Central Bed and Resource Registry. The on-line, secure Registry is regularly updated by more than 140 Ontario hospitals and provides immediate access to bed and resource availability for each hospital and contact information for on-call physicians in more than 55 medical specialities.
“With the information provided by the Bed Registry, communication is enhanced for hospitals, ambulance dispatch centres and other health care providers,” says Shelley. “The Registry provides a real-time snapshot of the resources available throughout Ontario.”
CritiCall can also play an important role in disaster planning. Using the Bed Registry to post notifications during wide-ranging emergencies would provide communication services that would ultimately enhance disaster planning, improve communication within each hospital and provide up-to-date information about resources available within hospitals, regions and the province.
“The Bed Registry was an invaluable tool during the SARS crisis,” says Shelley. “We were able to provide integral, timely information during an always-changing emergency.”
CritiCall is funded by the Hospital’s Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The program is managed by Hamilton Health Sciences and is based at the Henderson General Hospital.
Wendi MacKay, Communications Specialist, Ontario CritiCall Program