Health & Wellness

Users Give Virtual Health Care Two Thumbs Up

Most Canadians who have recently had virtual medical appointments say they were pleased with the experience.

By Erika Morris

With the need for social distancing, many Canadians have been turning to digital technology for health care.

According to a recent survey by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), just under half of respondents (47%) said they’d used virtual health care such as e-mail, texts, and phone and video appointments during the COVID-19 crisis. Of those, 91% said they were very satisfied with virtual care. The satisfaction rate was in fact higher for virtual care than for in-person emergency room visits during the pandemic.

The CMA found that not only do Canadians appreciate virtual care, but many would like to see the services continue and expand when the COVID-19 crisis lets up. Just under half of those who used virtual care methods since the coronavirus outbreak would prefer it as a first point of contact with their doctor moving forward, the CMA reports. Nevertheless, most respondents (58%) said they would prefer in-person visits.

“Virtual care has the potential to increase access to primary and specialist care for Canadians, particularly those in rural and remote communities,” a statement on the CMA’s website reads. “While the technology to deliver virtual care exists, many barriers remain to its widespread adoption—including payment models, licensure and quality standards, interoperability and governance, and education and training.”

Many respondents said they believe that virtual care can improve the healthcare system by lowering costs, improving access to specialists, and delivering test results faster.

However, virtual care is dependent on the patient’s Internet and phone service. Those who are less technologically adept, live in rural areas, or don’t have access to high-speed Internet may be disadvantaged. Often this means that those who need most care need in-person treatment.

“What’s needed now is for the federal government to facilitate a pan-Canadian framework for virtual care, with provinces and territories playing a key role in how virtual care is improved and expanded,” says Virtual Care Task Force Co-Chair and CMA Past President, Dr. Gigi Osler. “All Canadians—from urban to rural, remote and Indigenous communities—can benefit from more choice and convenience when it comes to how health care is accessed and delivered.”

Photo: iStock/simpson33.