Today, the Virtual Care Task Force (VCTF), a collaboration of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (Royal College) and the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), released its recommendations for enabling and expanding the implementation of virtual care in Canada.
The report, Virtual care: Recommendations for scaling up virtual medical services, outlines 19 recommendations for creating a pan-Canadian approach to the virtualization of health services. To inform its work over the past 11 months, the task force formed four working groups – interoperability and governance, licensure and quality of care, payment models and medical education – to explore the current barriers to using virtual care in Canada and to identify possible solutions.
Among their key recommendations, the task force calls for:
- national standards for patient health information access;
- increased support to regulatory bodies to simplify physician registration and licensure processes to allow physicians to provide virtual care across provincial and territorial boundaries;
- a framework to regulate the safety and quality of virtual care services;
- provincial and territorial governments, in collaboration with key associations, to develop new fee schedules for in-person and virtual care that are revenue neutral; and
- the establishment and incorporation of virtual care education at medical schools and continuing education for health professionals.
In addition to the CMA, the Royal College and the CFPC, the task force included representatives from the medical community, the provincial/territorial medical associations, the medical regulatory bodies, the public and the patient community.
As the world becomes more and more technologically driven, health care remains one of the areas where Canada is lagging behind. We all recognize the potential of new technologies to transform the way we deliver and receive care; it’s time we were able to take more advantage of them. We hope this report will serve as a roadmap to scaling up virtual care in Canada, with the goal of hitting 10 million virtual care visits by 2025.
-Dr. Gigi Osler, Virtual Care Task Force Co-chair for the Canadian Medical Association
Technology is the easy part. What’s obstructing the deployment of integrated virtual care that will benefit the health of Canadians is a problem of human architecture: fractured governance, discordant policy, analogue workflow, resistant culture. The path to quality virtual care will not be found in technology but in a collective will to reimagine and embrace principle-based digital-age health care in Canada. The opportunity is ours to take.
-Dr. Ewan Affleck, Virtual Care Task Force Co-chair for the College of Family Physicians of Canada
Expanding the use of virtual care will provide patients, especially those in remote and underserviced areas all across Canada, with improved access to specialist care. Ultimately, our shared goal is provide the best care to patients in a way that’s convenient to them and involves them as a partner in that care.
-Dr. Douglas Hedden, Virtual Task Force Co-Chair for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons