CritiCall Ontario focuses on the power of communication to help critically ill patients


In an era when e-mail is rapidly replacing phone calls in many workplaces, telephones and the simple power of dialogue continue to form the foundation of CritiCall Ontario’s service.

Built on the premise that communication can be one of the most powerful tools in the delivery of critical care, CritiCall Ontario operates a one number to call, emergency consultation and referral service for Ontario hospital-based physicians caring for critically ill or injured patients. For more than 15 years, CritiCall Ontario has been helping physicians tap into resources beyond the walls of their own hospitals by putting them in touch with other physicians who can help. All of this is done through a 1-800 number that connects physicians with CritiCall Ontario’s Call Centre and Call Agents who are trained to collect both physician and patient information and then locate the right type of specialist to provide a consultation to the physician who has called in. Depending on the outcome of the consultation, the patient may or may not need to be referred to another hospital for care.

“Our goal is to always make sure that consultation happens first before we get into discussions about beds and other patient care resources,” said Donna Thomson, CritiCall Ontario’s Executive Director. “Obviously, the best possible outcome is if the patient can receive the care they need where they are and a consultation with the right specialist is sometimes enough to make this happen. The goal of the service we offer is to maximize critical care resources in Ontario by engaging the entire system in caring for critically ill or injured patients.”

CritiCall Ontario knows where critical care resources are within the province at any given time so that physicians can help each other by sharing resources and expertise. It is important to keep in mind that all cases that come through our service are critical and the patients need to receive care as quickly as possible. Ideally we’d like everyone to consider not just the patients within their hospital, but others who may require care only available at that hospital. With that in mind, it may be possible to re-prioritze within your walls so that access to care is not jeopardized.

In fact, last year about 25 per cent of the 16,285 calls CritiCall Ontario facilitated were resolved through consultation alone. The consultation also helps lay the groundwork for next steps in the event that the physicians decide the patient needs to be referred to another hospital with different resources. In those cases, the consulting physician will be asked if he or she is able to accept the patient. If this is not possible, CritiCall Ontario will continue to search for a hospital with the required resources until a physician who can accept the patient is located.

“CritiCall is helping to advance the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s agenda for quality healthcare in Ontario, which includes rapid access to medical care for acutely ill patients, regardless of location in the province,” said Dr. Desmond Bohn, Medical Director for CritiCall Ontario. “When resources are finite, it is in everyone’s best interest to make sure they are being used as appropriately as possible.”

Funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, CritiCall Ontario is accountable to the Critical Care Secretariat and works closely with the Secretariat on projects and initiatives related to the overall delivery of critical care within Ontario. For example, CritiCall Ontario has been providing education and training for the Critical Care Information System (CCIS) since its inception, and is currently transitioning into the additional role of providing ongoing technical and administrative support for the system. The Secretariat’s Moderate Surge Management Program is another area where CritiCall Ontario plays a facilitation role in the event that hospitals need assistance managing a moderate surge for critical care services.

“CritiCall Ontario is very much a partner within the overall system,” said Donna. “We really try to work with our hospitals and physicians to understand how we can use our own resources to add value because ultimately, we want to make that critically ill patients receive the care they need within our province.”

For more information about CritiCall Ontario, please visit