The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges and obstacles to be overcome. For example some businesses adopted telework, speeding up existing digital transformation efforts and obtaining mechanisms in order to be able to function remotely. Self-isolation and physical distancing became a requirement, and the healthcare sector responded accordingly. Since March 2020, a number of people have been able to consult a health professional… in the comfort of their home.
Virtual health care: delivery of health care through technology
The emergence of virtual health care results from technological advances and from the arrival of the Internet. According to Statista, 88% of Canadians had access to a connected device in 2018. This means that the very great majority of the population is able to receive virtual health care. More and more health professionals have integrated digital transformation into their practice. They are now able to:
- Assess examination and testing results
- Follow and update patient files
- Transmit prescriptions and referrals digitally
The technological shift is speeding up now, bringing with it the possibility of offering remote consultations. This means that, going forward, health professionals and their patients will be able to interact by telephone or through text messaging and, more than ever, by videoconference. That’s practical when you want to consult your family physician, but it applies to other health professionals, as well, such as your career counsellor, dietitian or nutritionist, occupational therapist, psychologist, psychotherapist, sexologist, social worker, special educator or speech-language pathologist.
Many experts see virtual care as a promising way to reduce the load of the healthcare system and facilitate access to the expertise of health professionals. A lot of consultations can be carried out remotely. This is a definite advantage to people with motor problems and those in remote areas, who must travel long distances to see a specialist.
Other advantages of cyber health:
- Accessibility: available to anyone with access to a connected device.
- Significant time savings: no travel or wait times.
- Thorough follow-up by the professional, who can document your file, take notes, discuss your condition with you and ask questions. Videoconference or previously submitted photos can be used to examine physical issues, such as a wound or a rash.
- Simplification of file updating work, prescription of medication or tests, etc.
It’s not surprising that seven in 10 Canadians are in favour of incorporating more technology into health care and believe that technology could help prevent certain more serious illnesses through better prevention and early treatment.
Which types of health problems is it good for?
Is virtual health care appropriate for all types of health problems? Not necessarily, but as long as the symptoms are straightforward or the consultation does not require palpation or a physical examination, it can be a worthwhile solution.
For example, specifically in relation to a consultation with your physician, telemedecine can provide reinforcement with regard to a simple health problem that does not require a physical examination, such as skin conditions such as eczema and rashes. It provides:
- Follow-up to ensure that a wound is healing properly
- Follow-up of chronic illnesses or health conditions that do not require a medical procedure such as taking blood pressure to monitor hypertension, and monitoring of blood sugar when the patient’s condition is stable.
- Attention for benign, previously experienced issues such as a urinary tract infection, sinusitis, etc.
- Contraception and sexual health services, including screening of sexually transmitted infections.
In a March 2019 La Presse article, Dr. Yanick Beaulieu, a Canadian Medical Association contributor indicated that 60 to 70% of follow-ups for chronic conditions could be done remotely. That would change things, wouldn’t it?
Not right for all health problems
These new options are being added to the more traditional consultations available. There will always be conditions requiring a physical examination or the use of specialized devices.
If you have symptoms you are worried about, or if you have a health problem for which you need to be seen by a health professional, make an appointment!
19 avril 2021