Virtual Care is Here to Stay

By Sukirtha Tharmalingam

Virtual care is here to stay. According to the 2021 National Survey of Canadian Physicians, 94 per cent of respondents are currently using virtual care, and almost all of them plan to use virtual care after the pandemic ends. What’s more, 64 per cent say they will maintain or increase their use. 

Virtual Care is Here to Stay

The survey was conducted online in April and May this year with more than 2,000 physicians. Conducted by Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), it aims to better understand the use of digital health and information technology among Canadian physicians.

Findings indicate that virtual care has become an indispensable tool for physicians. In-person visits are still the most common form of consult, comprising about half of patients. However, about four in 10 are “seen” by telephone, with video visits comprising another one in 10. Different modalities are linked to different practices as well: general practitioners tended to see a greater proportion of their patients by telephone and messaging, while specialists saw more patients in-person and by video.

Physicians surveyed see the benefit of virtual care for themselves and their patients. More than 70 per cent believe that it improves patient access and enables quality, efficient care.

Other key findings include:

  • 94 per cent of physician respondents said they currently use virtual care
  • Seven out of 10 were satisfied with telephone/video and about 50 per cent were satisfied with email/messaging and remote monitoring
  • More than 70 per cent said they have the knowledge and skills needed to use virtual care, are satisfied with time spent with patients and found it easy to integrate into their workflow

The future of virtual care looks bright — and illuminates the importance of our current projects such as digital health literacy and clinician change management programs and further work on interoperability and standards. Working together, we can ensure that effective, equitable virtual care is integrated into the health system, for healthier Canadians today and tomorrow.

Download the report to learn more about the 2021 National Survey of Canadian Physicians. Be sure to catch highlights from the August session of our Virtual Infoway Partnership Series for a conversation with Infoway President and CEO Michael Green, and Dr. Ann Collins, CMA President. Highlights will also be available on the Digital Health InfoCast on September 7, so you can tune in on the go.

Explore the data further at Infoway Insights. And if you’re wondering what patients think of virtual care, check out our Canadian Digital Health Survey: What Canadians Think.

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About the author
Sukirtha Tharmalingam

Sukirtha Tharmalingam

Sukirtha Tharmalingam is Senior Manager of Evaluation Methods at Canada Health Infoway where she works with diverse stakeholders and partners to evaluate the impact of digital health investments.