ALLISTON -- Local hospitals are adopting video chat platforms, making it easier to see a physician from the comfort of your own home.

Stevenson Memorial Hospital launched the Meditech Virtual Visit, a platform Jodi Walker, manager of hospital quality and patient experience, says is changing the face of healthcare.

"What this allows us to do is get some of our patients that are stuck at home unable to come out because of COVID, and it allows them to meet and see their practitioners."

Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket and the Markham Stouffville Hospital partnered on the program, which William Bye, the Chief Financial Information Officer and VP of Corporate Services at SMH says is a first for healthcare in Canada.

"We're so happy that we can offer this type of technology to our patients," says Bye. "Being a small hospital being able to leverage the resources of the larger hospitals is super helpful for us."

The program wasn't scheduled to be released for a couple more years, but COVID-19 pressured health officials to the early launch.

"A lot of the industry has realized there's a lot of efficiencies to be made," says Bye.

"If we can deliver services more efficiently, this might be the way to do it."

Since the launch, the platform has started small, focusing primarily on mental health, cardiology consultations, and ambulatory care clinics.

Existing patients can schedule their appointments through the hospital's website and receive face to face care.

Patient Connect is an online tool giving patients use to access most of their health care history at any time.

But health officials say the platform is in no way a replacement for the emergency room.

"More of your minor aches and pains and (for those who) just need to have a doctor look at a wound or some other complications that are related to their situation," says Walker.

She adds that while there are a number of privacy issues with other video chat platforms, this new platform is completely safe.

"We can guarantee that Meditech Virtual Visits provides a secure platform for us to be able to support our patients that are stuck at home."

Health officials say this new platform is not a replacement for COVID assessment centres and recommend anyone with symptoms to get tested right away.