SAULT STE. MARIE -- Sault Area Hospital is adopting a virtual method of monitoring patients at home before and after surgery. It's one of the first hospitals in northeastern Ontario to use the SeamlessMD app, which officials say is being used more frequently across Ontario due to COVID-19.

SeamlessMD is described as a surgical remote monitoring program that connects patients with the healthcare provider and helps them prepare for and track progress after surgery.

"(It monitors) their symptoms, their pain level, photos of their incision after surgery," said SeamlessMD CEO Dr. Joshua Liu. "Back at the hospital, their healthcare team can get alerts and dashboards and monitor patients and catch any problems much earlier."

Liu said SeamlessMD launched eight years ago and is being used more often since the beginning of the pandemic, especially with the resulting backlog of surgeries.

Dr. James Chan, Sault Area Hospital's director of innovation, said the app has been in use at the hospital for the past two months and patients have been responding favourably.

"We're very excited to be part of this initiative," said Chan. "There's been a large number of patients enrolled in it, people are excited about it. It's really what patients have been waiting for in terms of getting knowledge in their hands at their fingertips."

Chan sees uses for SeamlessMD beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think that this is the future," he said. "We'll be looking at ways to be more efficient and effective with delivering care here at the hospital, as well as our community partners so that patients receive high-quality of care with the latest technology."

Sault Area Hospital has been using the app for hip and knee replacement patients. Officials said it has reduced emergency department visits, length of hospital stays and readmissions.