Virtual Care and Post-Pandemic Practice

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A survey of Canadian physicians found that most intend to keep virtual care as a component of their practice.

In a survey of nearly 2,100 physicians conducted by the Canadian Medical Association and Canada Health Infoway, nearly a quarter reported expecting their use of virtual care to increase, while 4 in 10 expect it to remain the same. Very few (four percent) expect to discontinue the use of virtual care.

Nearly all (94 percent) physicians surveyed currently provide patient care through virtual means at their practice. Telephone care (93 percent) is most widely offered by physicians, followed by video visits (51 percent) and secure email/messaging (36 percent). Very few provide remote patient/home health monitoring (five percent). However, in-person visits remain prevalent as the most common consult with physicians. Half of patients are currently seen in person and 4 in 10 by telephone. Only 1 in 10 are seen by video and fewer are (two percent) consulted by secure email/messaging.

Physicians are fairly satisfied with virtual care options. Virtual care users feel it is easy to provide and that their patients find it easy to receive. A majority feel patients would like to receive more care through each. However, while two-thirds of physicians using video visits would like to provide more video care; just under half feel the same about telephone and email/message consults.

GPs see a greater proportion of patients by telephone vs. specialists, while specialists see relatively greater proportions of patients in-person and by video. Furthermore, GPs are more satisfied with telephone consults than specialists and, conversely, specialists are more satisfied with video visits.

Physicians using virtual care report seeing benefits for both themselves and their patients. Most believe virtual care improves patient access, and enables quality and efficient care for their patients. High agreement was reported that physicians have the knowledge and skills needed, are satisfied with time spent with patients, and found it easy to integrate into their workflow. However, most have experienced challenges with virtually examining patients, and half recognize the inability of some patients and communities to access virtual care.

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