Medical imaging provides hotline to primary care

Community-based primary care providers often face challenges accessing and navigating hospital-based imaging for their patients.

The , a partnership between Women’s College Hospital (WCH) and the Joint Department of (JDMI), is a direct point of contact for primary care providers in the community to access medical imaging expertise. Staffed by a dedicated team of administrative professionals and on-call radiologists, the call centre’s mission is to improve integration with primary care by providing navigational and consultative support in real-time during patient visits.

While supporting Women’s College Family Practice Health Centre (FPHC), the Medical Imaging Call Centre is also part of WCH’s primary care strategy, aiming to make hospital services more accessible to community-based providers.

“The patients truly benefit from such a tremendous service,” says Dr. Dominic Li, family physician in Toronto and frequent user of the call centre service for the last three years. “With direct access to such specialized imaging expertise, patients can be assured that they are receiving the appropriate information about their health without having to visit the emergency department.”

Established in 2008, this service was originally available to hospital clinicians at WCH, University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital.

In 2014, with the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care’s support, the call centre was expanded as a pilot and enhanced to support community physicians to evaluate the benefits to patients and referring physicians. Results showed a decline in emergency department visits, increased appropriateness of imaging by facilitating clinician-clinician conversations between radiology and primary care.

“Creating an innovative, user-friendly call centre illustrates that primary care providers value conversations with medical imaging specialists,” says Dr. Heidi Schmidt, medical imaging site director, WCH. “This initiative serves as an opportunity to develop partnerships with primary care, elicit feedback, and tailor medical imaging services to their needs.”

Primary care feedback received through the call centre allows the JDMI and WCH to make improvements to the medical imaging services they provide.

Designed to prevent unnecessary emergency department visits and improve the appropriateness of ordered imaging tests, WCH and the call centre offer access to urgent imaging and expedited reports, real-time radiology consultations and navigational support. Prior to its expansion, community-based providers did not have a direct link to any of these services. Patients requiring urgent investigations were often sent to over-crowded emergency departments to expedite imaging.

The Medical Imaging Call Centre currently provides its service to more than 120 family health practitioners in the GTA.

For more information please contact Corwin Burton, medical imaging manager, WCH at 416-323-6082 or