Virtual Care Guide for Patients

VIRTUAL CARE Guide for Patients

In collaboration with patients and their families, the Canadian Medical Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada have created this guide to help patients prepare for “virtual visits” with their doctor. It focuses on video visits, although it is also possible to receive virtual care through phone calls, text messaging and email. We recommend that you read the entire guide to gain the best possible results. 09a300

Many patients are enthusiastic about virtual care’s potential but are also understandably concerned about some key issues, such as:

  • Is virtual care safe and effective?
  • Can I manage the technology to connect with my doctor?
  • Will the system be secure enough to ensure my privacy?
  • How will virtual care affect my relationship with my doctor?

    Fortunately, the answer to the first three questions is usually yes. And both patients and doctors who have experience with virtual care report that it has a positive effect on their relationship.With those reassurances, let’s look at what you need to know to take advantage of virtual care, and particularly video visits.

WHO PAYS FOR VIRTUAL CARE?

THERE ARE THREE WAYS TO COMPENSATE DOCTORS FOR PROVIDING VIRTUAL CARE:

Publicly funded medical coverage: In most provinces and territories, virtual care is not covered by government health insurance programs. But there are exceptions, particularly during infectious outbreaks, and there is growing interest in broadening public insurance coverage for virtual visits.

Employer-paid insurance: Many employers now offer free virtual health care to employees and their dependents.

Patient paying out of pocket: For patients who are willing to pay for virtual care, there are private companies who sell individual visits or subscriptions for virtual care with physicians.

Check to see whether your provincial/territorial government covers it (contact your doctor or your provincial/territorial medical insurance plan) or whether your employer covers it.

WHAT IS AND ISN’T SUITABLE FOR VIRTUAL CARE

While many medical problems can be assessed and treated via virtual care, there are others that cannot be safely managed without an in-person physical examination.

YOU CAN SAFELY USE VIRTUAL VISITS FOR:

mental health issues

many skin problems (photos that you take in advance provide better images than video)

urinary, sinus and minor skin infections

sore throats, if your doctor can arrange a throat swab to test for strep

eye redness without pain or change in vision

sexual health, including screening and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and hormonal contraception

travel-related health care

conditions monitored with home devices and/or lab tests (e.g., blood pressure, cholesterol, thyroid and some parts of diabetes care)

review of lab tests, imaging (e.g., x-rays and ultrasounds) and specialist reports.

Some problems are not appropriate for virtual care because a doctor would need to physically examine you. This includes:

new emergency symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, loss of vision, loss of hearing, sudden weakness or numbness (you’d need to go to a hospital emergency department)

ear pain (your doctor would need to look inside your ear, which can’t be done via video)

cough (your doctor would need to listen to your chest with a stethoscope);abdominal or digestive problems (your doctor would need to feel your belly) 

muscle and joint injuries (your doctor would need to feel the affected area for tenderness, warmth, etc.)

Although you may need to see a doctor in person for your first appointment for these types of problems, follow-up visits may be well suited to virtual care.

As time passes, we expect new innovations and research will increase the range of problems that doctors can assess safely via virtual visits.

Click: VIRTUAL CARE  
to access more informations, such as:

ARRANGING A VISIT

REGARDLESS OF WHERE YOU OBTAIN A VIRTUAL VIDEO OR PHONE VISIT, YOU NEED TO MAKE SOME ARRANGEMENTS IN ADVANCE

PREPARING YOUR COMMUNICATIONS DEVICE AND CONNECTION FOR A VIDEO VISIT

CHOOSING AN APPROPRIATE LOCATION FOR A VIDEO VISIT

THINGS TO HAVE WITH YOU AT THE START OF THE VISIT

DURING THE VIDEO VISIT

This Virtual Care Guide for Patients was co-created with members of the CMA Patient Voice, a group of patient representatives that advise the CMA on key health issues from a patient’s perspective.