Canadian Medical Association

According to a recent survey conducted for Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), almost all Canadian physicians say they will continue to use virtual care after the pandemic, and 64 per cent say they will maintain or increase their use.

The survey was conducted online in April and May with more than 2,000 physicians — general practitioners (GPs)/family physicians, specialists and residents.

Ninety-four per cent of physicians said they currently use virtual care, with 93 per cent offering telephone visits, 51 per cent offering video visits, 36 per cent offering email/messaging and five per cent offering remote patient/home health monitoring. More than 70 per cent believe virtual care improves patient access and enables quality care and efficient care for their patients.

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.

In addition, 93 per cent of GPs are now using electronic medical records (EMRs), up from 86 per cent in 2019 (Commonwealth Fund Survey).

“It’s clear from these findings that virtual care is here to stay in Canada,” said Michael Green, President and CEO, Infoway. “Physicians are satisfied with it and they recognize the benefits to their patients and their practice. It’s also good to see that almost all GPs are using EMRs, which can really help enable virtual care.” 

“The use of virtual care has increased greatly since the beginning of the pandemic but work is still required to ensure quality care and equitable access,” said Dr. Ann Collins, CMA president. “We still have work to do such as creating national licensure, developing quality standards, addressing interoperability as well as ensuring digital health literacy, education and training. These are crucial elements to the successful integration of virtual care into our health care system and should be part of our post-pandemic roadmap.”

The survey also found that physicians believe some patients may need additional support to access virtual care. In particular, they mentioned patients with: low levels of technology literacy, disabilities, language barriers, low incomes, chronic conditions, and those who are from remote locations and Indigenous communities.

“We will continue to collaborate with the CMA, governments and other health system stakeholders, including patients, to overcome any barriers associated with virtual care,” Green said. “Infoway is developing programs to address digital health literacy and clinician change management and we are enhancing our work on interoperability and standards. Together, we can ensure that virtual care is effectively integrated into the health care system and that all Canadians have equitable access to it.”

Download the results: 2021 National Survey of Canadian Physicians.

Attend the virtual Infoway Partnership Series session on August 17 to hear a discussion between Dr. Ann Collins and Michael Green. View the program and register for free here.

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