Virtual health care is when a physician or medical professional interacts with their patient remotely, or through electronic communication. (iStock/fizkes)

Task force outlines recommendations for virtual health care in Canada

The Virtual Care Task Force (VCTF) has released a new report containing its recommendations for the expansion of virtual health care in Canada.

Virtual health care is when a physician or medical professional interacts with their patient remotely, or through electronic communication. 

The full report, which can be read here, makes 19 recommendations for an approach to creating virtual health care services across Canada. 

Some of the major recommendations from the report include creating a national standard for health information access, increasing to simplify a physician’s ability to acquire licenses to conduct virtual care across provincial boundaries and to establish virtual care education in medical schools, as well as continuing education for current health professionals. 

The report also recommends setting standards for Indigenous virtual care. 

The VCTF was made up 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).

It was created to address key challenges of virtual care in Canada such as the quality of the care, medical education, and governance of the virtual health care system. 

“As the world becomes more and more technologically driven, health care remains one of the areas where Canada is lagging behind,” Dr. Gigi Osler, a co-chair for the VCTF for the CMA, said in a press release.  “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,” Osler added.. 

The report said that it is expecting consumer demand to make virtual health care more common in Canada, but added that a framework is needed to ensure that the quality of the virtual health care service is bound to a high standard of excellence.

It cites data from recent surveys conducted by Canada Health Infoway, which found that 71 per cent of Canadians want to be able to book appointments electronically, but just 9 per cent of family physicians offer that option. Surveys also found that 41 per cent of Canadians would like to have video appointments, but right now only 4 per cent of family physicians have that service.

“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,” said Dr. Douglas Hedded, a VTFC co-chair for Royal College. “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.”

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