B.C. government working on long-term plan for virtual health care

For much of the past few years, British Columbians have gone from seeing doctors in person to through a screen for virtual health care.

“There is clearly some benefit to (virtual health care) and that is why we are working to make the best clinical decisions,” B.C. health minister Adrian Dix said.

Earlier this week, changes came into effect in Ontario, when an agreement between the Ontario government and Ontario Medical Association saw a drop in fees for virtual care visits allowing more patients to be seen in person rather than behind a screen.

Minor assessments were set at $37 dollars a visit but changed to $20 for a video session and $15 for a phone call.

B.C. doctors and the province are now discussing whether changes are needed here.

“What we need to do is to apply standards to virtual visits, to ensure people get the care they need,” said Dix. “There are simply some things that can’t be dealt with virtually.”

The reliance on virtual medicine has soared during the pandemic as last April there were nearly 1.5 million virtual visits in B.C. compared to nearly 1.2 million in-person visits.

“We want to make sure that what we are achieving is the kind of health care that really benefits people,” Sonia Fustenau said, BC Green Party leader.

Rocket Doctor is an Ontario-based company that links doctors to patients typically outside regular clinic hours. The company has around 70 doctors working in B.C.

“We know from surveying our patients, that 33 per cent of all patients that we have seen would have gone to the emergency had we not been available,” said Dr. William Cherniak, Rocket Doctor’s founder and CEO.

It could be months until a decision is made about cost, according to the B.C. government.