Virtual Care; here to stay? Canadians say yes.
"While most Canadians still rely on in-person contact to get a doctor's advice, almost half have accessed advice using phone, email, videoconference, or text methods. Satisfaction levels are high, only marginally below satisfaction levels with in-person visits to see a doctor. Since the pandemic, use of virtual methods has increased, and satisfaction levels remain solid, with all virtual methods producing higher satisfaction than an ER visit. " (Abacus Data in Association with the CMA)
To those of us in Healthcare Technology, this recent poll of Canadians doesn't come as a surprise. We have been working towards this for years, no decades. The technology has been there, the policies and practices have not. It took a pandemic to bring virtual care to the mainstream, just like it did the work from home office. Sometimes we get too tied to how things are done, instead of looking at the "end consumer" and asking how they would like to be served.
The poll from Abacus Data and the Canadian Medical Association highlights how patients have embraced virtual care, much like virtual banking and online classes. They quickly adapt to methods that make their life easier and safer, as long as they get the same level of service. As physicians, we have provided that same level of service online, instead of in person, so in a sense the technology just facilitated a new way for us to do what we have always done. Care for our patients. And now we are starting to see the associations start to support these new processes, that we were all forced to embrace.
“Physical distancing measures designed to keep Canadians safe during our fight against COVID-19 have led to the adoption of virtual care out of necessity. We need to build on this momentum. Canadians should be able to access health care in a timely and convenient fashion.” - Dr. Sandy Buchman, CMA president
If we again draw a parallel to the banking industry, they provide multiple options to connect with their customers; in person, telephone, online, ATMs, mobile apps, and even some drive-thru options. So why shouldn't we provide more options to our patients? As specialist physicians we often see patients that have driven hours to see us for minutes. Patients have taken planes, trains, boats, bikes and automobiles just to meet us in person! We "force" these people to meet us face to face because we haven't adopted systems that would save them days and would avoid them having to take time off work, or from being away from their families.
Should we replace face to face visits with virtual ones? No. Should we provide the option for patients to have a virtual appointment instead? Yes. The onus is still on us as physicians to decide when a face to face visit is necessary, but we should balance that with when patient visits do not have to be done in person. Times when it would be better for the patient to have a virtual appointment.
"Many people believe that expanding access to virtual care would benefit patients and also improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs for Canada. Very few see downsides in making this a more common option." (Abacus Data in Association with the CMA)
“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.” Virtual Care Task Force Co-Chair and CMA Past President, Dr. Gigi Osler.
Is virtual care here to stay. We don't know for sure yet, but hopefully government, associations, divisions and departments will all begin to embrace it as a viable option that makes patient lives easier and potentially saves health care dollars. As physicians here at Arya EHR we are definitely in support. Our virtual clinic solutions have provided help to physicians while working from home, office, clinic and hospital. This isn't a natural evolution, it is a required addition. Lets embrace this change, as it doesn't happen often enough in our industry.