Four Appletree Medical Group health clinics in Ottawa are using the internet to connect patients with doctors in Toronto for more timely treatment.

The Ontario government pays for the one-year pilot program, which works by using online video conferencing. Physicians can diagnose and treat patients without examining them in person, by assessing their visible symptoms, such as if they have a rash or burn.

But someone complaining of abdominal pain, for example, would have to be treated by a doctor in person.

Vijnken Shah came to an Appletree clinic with an eye infection and opted for the shorter telemedicine wait time.

"I really like this approach," Shah told CBC News. "It's very easy. I didn't find any difficulty. It was very clear and concise … so it's a better approach."

Shah said not having a doctor physically in the room with him did not bother him. He said he would have had to wait at least an hour to see someone in person.

Patients accept new technology for short wait

Dr. Drago Malisic, based in the Greater Toronto Area, said patients accept the new technology for the quick service.


Dr. Drago Malisic, based in the Greater Toronto Area, spoke with CBC News via webcam at an Appletree clinic, and said the technology excites patients. (CBC)

"A lot of the time there are certain things you can't do over telemedicine, but in terms of communicating, I think it's very good," he said.

Dr. Tim Bell, Appletree's medical director in Ottawa, also treats patients via video link. 

He said an appointment begins with a medical resident in Ottawa spending half an hour examining and questioning the patient.

Dan Paquette frequently visits clinics and said, while human contact is lost, he would make an appointment with his family doctor if he needed in-person contact. He uses clinics because they are a quick way to get care.

"If it's more efficient, and we can get more patients through and patients don't have to wait. I think it's a great idea," Paquette said.

Since the pilot project began six months ago, the Ottawa clinics have served 2,000 patients via video conference. It will be evaluated at the end of the year.

Ottawa doctors will soon be connected to patients in the Matheson in northern Ontario, where there is a shortage of family doctors.