A quicker, easier way to book an appointment with a family doctor
The Quebec Medical Appointment Scheduler, one of the better-kept secrets in public health care, is just waiting to be used by anyone who wants to make an appointment to see a family physician or a specialized nurse practitioner.
According to Irina Blumer, Coordinator of Family Medicine Groups (GMFs) in CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, the free, time-saving service can be especially helpful, now that the COVID‑19 pandemic is declining and requests are increasing for consultations with a family doctor.
However, Ms. Blumer adds, even though demand to see a doctor is rising, many appointment slots are still available through RVSQ, since word is still spreading about the availability of the service.
Though officially known in English as the Quebec Medical Appointment Scheduler, the service is most commonly referred to by its French abbreviation, RVSQ (Rendez-vous santé Québec).
Ms. Blumer says RVSQ can be a lifeline for individuals who have no family physician, but need to see a doctor to discuss a problem that, while not urgent, still requires prompt medical attention. The patient can obtain an appointment in one of the CIUSSS’s six walk-in clinics or in another type of healthcare facility.
She notes that when walk-in clinics were introduced more than 10 years ago, a person could literally walk in off the street and be seen by a doctor on the same day. While this is no longer possible (especially because of the pandemic), RVSQ does enable individuals to book an appointment from the comfort of home and obtain a medical consultation at a convenient time.
The physicians who practice in GMFs and walk-in clinics in CIUSSS West-Central Montreal have signed on to RVSQ, but not all family doctors who have their own practice have registered. However, Ms. Blumer says, more doctors are being encouraged to open up their appointment schedules to RVSQ.
Marouane Nassim, a CIUSSS agent for planning and programming, says that the JGH Emergency Department is now also connected to RVSQ. Thus, if a patient comes to the hospital with a problem that is not an actual emergency, a member of the Emergency staff can book an appointment for the patient to see a family doctor in one of the time slots that have been reserved for the department’s use.
In a nutshell, here is the procedure:
- Those who already have a family physician should turn first to their doctor. In many (but not all) cases, the appointment can be made through RVSQ. If the patient’s doctor is in the RVSQ system but has no open slots, the patient can use RVSQ to make an appointment with a doctor in the same GMF.
- For those who do not have their own family physician, RVSQ should be their first step in booking an appointment.
- Once an appointment has been made, the first consultation will probably be conducted virtually by phone or Zoom. At this meeting, the doctor will determine whether a follow-up visit in person is necessary.
The use of RVSQ also cuts down on missed appointments, explains Ms. Blumer, because the patient can choose to receive confirmation of the booking by phone, email or text—whichever message the patient is most likely to see.
“The bottom line,” she says, “is that patients can choose the time of their appointment, avoid delay, be seen quickly and avoid a trip to the Emergency Department. What we’re trying to do is streamline the system and make it more responsive to patients’ needs.”