Canadian Medical Association

With the potential to improve access to care, decrease wait times and make physicians’ practices more efficient, virtual care could help relieve many of the pressures facing the health care system today. But Canada is lagging behind many other countries in its adoption.

To look at what’s standing in the way, the CMA is joining forces with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada as part of a new task force.

The group’s mandate will be to identify the regulatory and administrative changes needed to support virtual care in Canada, and to allow physicians to deliver care to patients within and across provincial/territorial boundaries.

“It’s time to update our policies and regulations to bring our health care system into the 21st century,” said CMA President Dr. Gigi Osler. “We could − and should − be taking advantage of today’s technology to break down barriers and improve access to care for Canadians.”

CMA members have also flagged virtual care as a priority. At the CMA Health Summit last August, attendees identified virtual care as a “significant innovation” for improving access to primary and specialist care. Similar themes emerged at the CMA’s Regional Member Forums this winter, with participants calling for more technology, training and payment models to support the adoption of virtual care in their practices.

We need to embrace, learn more and engage with technology.
-    Participant, CMA Regional Member Forum in Edmonton

This member feedback complements what the CMA heard last summer as part of its “Google Generation” report on the health care needs of younger Canadians. The report found that 7 in 10 Canadians would take advantage of virtual physician visits, and many believe they would lead to more timely, convenient − and overall better − care.

The task force is expected to complete its work by the end of 2019, and to have a set of recommendations ready to present to appropriate stakeholders in early 2020.

Along with representatives from the CMA, the Royal College and the CFPC, the task force will also include members of the eHealth industry and other major Canadian medical and health care associations.

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