Virtual Kids clinic in Calgary connects families with pediatricians after hours

CALGARY — There has been an explosion of telehealth services due to the pandemic, but a Calgary-based pediatric clinic is believed to be the first platform of it’s kind in Alberta.

Virtual Kids Pediatric Urgent Care was created in July 2020 when a group of seven emergency doctors noticed fewer people were bringing in their children over fears of COVID-19 and not wanting to burden the health-care system.

Dr. Kerri Landry, the clinic’s co-founder, says with the emergency departments swamped, fears of the virus rampant and families craving convenience, the idea was born to offer a space for parents to seek medical advice for their children.

“We’ve long noticed that lots of things end up in the emergency department that aren’t true emergencies,” explained Landry. “That’s not to diminish the feelings parents have when they’re worried about their kids. There’s just a group of things that don’t have anywhere to go.

“It means they’re not super, super sick but they either can’t get into their family doctor, or they don’t have a family doctor, or things aren’t open and they just don’t know where to go to get great pediatric advice.”

Virtual Kids is open weeknights, weekends and holidays, and demand has been so high since launching nearly a year ago that the clinic is adding physicians and hoping to expand.

The clinic’s doctors see families virtually from home on a secure network and offer advice on everything from fevers to bumps and bruises, or whether a cut may need stitches.

Landry says about five per cent of the visits can’t be dealt with virtually and those are directed to the best in-person care option for the family.

“We want to be care partners with family doctors. This is not meant to replace people’s primary doctor because we really believe in the sanctity of the medical home and so that’s why we chose the after hours and on weekends when people have a harder time accessing their primary care provider,” Landry said.

Parents can book online up to 24 hours in advance and their visits are covered by provincial health insurance.

Vaccine Confidence Clinic for Kids

Virtual Kids also takes referrals regarding vaccine concerns, in particular from the newly launched Kids’ Virtual COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Clinic.

The in-person or online platform is a partnership between 19 to Zero, a national coalition working to increase vaccine uptake, and the Vaccine Hesitancy Clinic at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

The idea is to tackle hesitancy among children and parents regarding COVID-19 shots by allowing them to ask questions as physicians equip families with accruate information and dispel any misconceptions.

“Children ages 12 and up are now eligible for the COVID vaccine in Alberta. It’s natural for parents to have questions about how the vaccine will impact their child. With this clinic, we will communicate with parents in a way that builds trust and confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine,” says Dr. Cora Constantinescu, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and health-care worker lead for 19 to Zero.

Referrals are required for appointments and additional information is available at Virtual Kids – COVID Clinic.

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