Patient stories

What Sunnybrook patients are saying about Toronto’s Virtual Emergency Department

Dr. Justin Hall is an emergency physician at Sunnybrook and program lead for the virtual emergency department.
Written by Idella Sturino

Hospital emergency departments continue to feel the pressure of high demand, with patients often facing long wait times to receive care.

It’s one reason people are using Toronto’s Virtual Emergency Department, an online urgent care service that brings together emergency doctors from Sunnybrook and University Health Network.

For Graham Caruana, the decision to seek virtual care came down to ease and convenience, all from the comfort and privacy of his own home.

“I was able to get the care I needed right away,” he says.

Caruana decided to try the virtual emergency department after suffering injuries that were not life threatening while changing a flat tire in March. He describes the process of receiving urgent care this way as “seamless”.

“I went online and picked an appointment time,” he says. “Then I got a call back saying I had been booked.”

When the time came for his virtual appointment, Caruana – an emergency nurse himself — found the experience more comfortable than it might have been in person.

“There is so much commotion in the emergency room,” Caruana explains. “With the virtual emergency department, I was on my computer in my own home and I did not have to deal with overhead announcements or phones ringing or other interruptions.”

Ayush Singh was similarly pleased when he used the service to seek medical attention for cold and flu symptoms in April. Hoping to avoid the frustration of long lines at nearby walk-in clinics, he says he looked up telemedicine options “on a hunch” and stumbled upon the virtual emergency department.

“The doctor took time in evaluating and diagnosing my health issues and even wrote me a prescription to help with fever and throat pain,” Singh says. “The coordinating staff member did a fantastic job too. I couldn’t be happier with the overall experience.”

Sunnybrook’s Dr. Justin Hall, an emergency physician and virtual emergency department lead, says all patients who use the service are invited to complete a survey afterwards to share their feedback.

“Most patients speak positively about it,” says Dr. Hall. “We often think of virtual care as lesser care but many patients have found it to be a better option.”

He adds that what started out as a pilot project during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a trusted resource – one that’s here to stay as part of the future of healthcare.

Since it first launched on December 1, 2020, Sunnybrook’s virtual emergency department has seen more than 5,000 patients. The goal over the coming months and years, Dr. Hall explains, is to continue to work towards an urgent care model where virtual options are seamlessly integrated with in-person ones.

In the meantime, patients who want to use Toronto’s Virtual Emergency Department can continue to access same-day appointments seven days a week.

Virtual emergency visits are optional; Sunnybrook’s in-person Emergency Department is still available for walk-in visits for people who need urgent care.

Learn more about Toronto’s Virtual Emergency Department and book online by visiting:

About the author

Idella Sturino

Idella Sturino is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook. She has a passion for storytelling and public engagement and brings two decades' worth of expertise as a former journalist to the role.