Virtual appointments are here to stay post-COVID-19, says B.C. doctors association
VICTORIA -- The pandemic has forced British Columbians to change how they see their family doctors. Victoria Pruden lives in Saanich and she’s one of the lucky ones to even have a family doctor.
“I’ve met once for a physical but every other appointment has been on the telephone,” Pruden says.
Doctors of BC, which represents around 14,000 doctors in the province, says virtual care is here to stay.
“We went from 10 per cent of visits being done by video, to over 90 per cent overnight,” said Doctors of BC president Dr. Matthew Chow.
“I think that now that people have seen the convenience and people have seen the increased accessibility by virtual care, we’re just not going back to the pre-pandemic world,” said Chow.
A recent poll conducted by Insights West on behalf of London Drugs, confirms that the majority of B.C. residents are satisfied with virtual care.
“Sixty-five per cent say that they are now more likely to choose virtual,” says Steve Mossop, president of Insights West. “Seven in 10 attribute this to COVID-19, saying that the pandemic has shown them that virtual appointments can be effective.”
The results also show that a similar percentage of people will continue to use virtual visits once the pandemic is over.
“One of the main barriers (to using virtual care), interestingly enough, was how doctors are paid,” said Chow.
Traditionally, doctors get paid on a fee-for-service basis which didn’t include fees for virtual care. In March of last year, the province changed that funding agreement with physicians.
Some people do still feel that an in-person meeting with a doctor is the best way to go and Doctors of BC agrees. Going forward, developing a balance between virtual care and in-person care is the goal of the organization.
“You know, if I have a mole and I’m trying to figure out if it’s cancer or not, you don’t want to necessarily be trying to do that over the internet,” said Chow. “So there still a lot of face-to-face care that needs to be done.”