Doctors increasingly making 'virtual' house calls
Published Wednesday, July 9, 2014 9:54PM EDT
Virtual house calls that allow physicians to diagnose problems and prescribe drugs over the Internet are becoming increasingly popular across Canada, but at least one province is ordering a review to ensure patients are still getting proper medical care.
Eight provinces and territories have embraced what’s known as “telemedicine,” in which health practitioners use video conferencing.
Physicians pay for a secure online system to book the virtual appointments, thus eliminating the need for an in-person visit.
The service is used mainly for chronic ailments, minor problems or prescription renewals. Referrals can also be made online.
Family doctor Sanjeev Goel recently started to pay for the service and says his patients are pleased with the results.
“We’ve only been using it for two months, but everyone I’ve encountered as a patient has been just overwhelmed by how amazing it is,” Goel said.
One service called Medeo says it has more than 400 doctors signed up in British Columbia alone. It also claims that more than 200 new patients sign up each day. The company is now expanding across Canada.
Medeo CEO Ryan Wilson said it’s the convenience and speed that attracts both doctors and patients.
“In many cases, people have seen a doctor in the morning, and have been able to see a specialist the same day, or same week,” Wilson told CTV News.
Stan Morrison, who was recently diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative neurological disorder commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, said telemedicine eliminates all the work that comes with visiting the doctor’s office.
“It was such an effort to get dressed, drive down, find a parking place,” he said.
Morrison says after his online appointments, new or additional prescriptions are delivered directly to his pharmacist.
Most provinces don’t pay physicians for the virtual visits yet, with the exception of British Columbia, which pays $41 per online appointment.
With the number of online visits growing rapidly, the province has ordered a review of telemedicine to ensure patients are getting good care, and that the system isn’t being abused.
And, many doctors also stress that hands-on medical care will always be the best way to approach patient care.