Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) conducted a patient survey and in-depth physician interviews and also funded researchers from the University of British Columbia to examine online medical virtual visits in British Columbia to better understand who is using and providing these services, the potential value for patients, and the potential impact on overall use of primary care.
“Access to care is a big problem facing rural communities in Canada, but in fact, there are well-documented accessibility issues in urban areas as well. Virtual visits provide the option for patients to see their care provider in a timely and convenient manner regardless of where they reside,” said Dr. Eric Cadesky, a family physician in Vancouver who uses virtual visits in his practice. “Virtual visits has been an added benefit to my practice. Not only has time been added to my day to see more patients, but I’m giving time back to my patients – valuable time they can spend at work or with loved ones.”
Virtual visits can increase access to care for patients, while providing more flexibility in work arrangements for physicians. Researchers found through a longitudinal analysis of patients of similar sex, age, and number of chronic conditions, that patients who had virtual visits had fewer visits to a general practitioner (GP) over the next 18 months and thus lower costs. These benefits appear to be associated with a patient seeing a care provider who they have previously seen in in a traditional office visit.
- 98 per cent of patients saved travel time
- 94 per cent of patients reported confidence in the security and privacy of their personal information when using a virtual visit
- 91 per cent of patients felt that their health issue was addressed appropriately during the visit
- 87 per cent avoided a work absence
- 57 per cent of patients report that they avoided an in person visit with their doctor/regular place of care because they were able to see a doctor online
“The availability of this sort of technology is growing rapidly, and in British Columbia we had the unique experience of embedding primary care virtual visits as a publicly-funded service.” said Kimberlyn McGrail, Associate Professor, Centre for Health Policy and Services Research, University of British Columbia, and lead author of the observational study. “The patient survey results clearly show that virtual visits can be a way to offer patient-centred care. Whether we realize that potential depends critically on how these services are integrated into existing care delivery.”
Visit Infoway’s website to learn more about the virtual visits study in British Columbia or listen to a webinar presented by the lead researchers. You can also learn more about Infoway’s investments in Consumer Health e-Services.
About Canada Health Infoway
Infoway helps to improve the health of Canadians by working with partners to accelerate the development, adoption and effective use of digital health across Canada. Through our investments, we help deliver better quality and access to care and more efficient delivery of health services for patients and clinicians. Infoway is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government.
Results of a recent patient survey and observational study found virtual visits, medical consultations between a patient and provider via videoconference, suggest that this new model of care is responsive to patients’ needs and could offer health system value including the potential to lower primary care costs.