British Columbia

Virtual medical care is here to stay post-pandemic, Doctors of B.C. says

Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, president-elect of the voluntary association representing thousands of physicians, says medical appointments via phone or video conferencing have improved access to care for patients across the province and will continue.

'The future is here and the goal is now to just navigate the road ahead,' association's president-elect says

While she anticipates virtual medical care will be utilized less as people gradually return to in-person consultations, Doctors of B.C. president-elect Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh believes remote appointments still have a big role to play in health care. (Shutterstock/Nattakorn Maneerat)

Seeing a health-care professional via video or telephone has improved patient care access in British Columbia and will continue after the threat of COVID-19 subsides, says the leader of the organization that represents thousands of physicians across the province.

Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, president-elect of Doctors of B.C., said virtual appointments increased fourfold during the pandemic — and the option of seeing a doctor remotely is here to stay.

"I think that we will not go back to the pre-pandemic virtual care levels," Dosanjh told CBC's The Early Edition on Tuesday. "The future is here and the goal is now to just navigate the road ahead."

Dosanjh says it is important to have in-person appointments with your doctor as some medical concerns should be physically examined. She said virtual appointments can be efficient and effective for follow-up care, prescription refills and mental health check-ins.

Virtual appointments, she said, can also greatly benefit British Columbians with mobility issues or those who live in rural communities where accessing the doctor's office is a challenge.

"It's enabled them to access care in a way that they previously weren't able to," said Dosanjh.

But Dosanjh does have some concerns about the increasing use of phone and video appointments — one being that patients may not know if they have a situation requiring urgent care.

She said it's also important that increased virtual appointments do not result in "fragmented care" for British Columbians who could end up "jumping from doctor to doctor" rather than receiving continuous care from their family physician or specialist.

A Canadian Medical Association (CMA) survey released last June suggested 47 per cent of Canadians used virtual care such as calls, email, texts or video during the pandemic. Of these, 91 per cent said they were very satisfied with the experience.

Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh speaks with Stephen Quinn about the pandemic's lasting impact on visits to the doctor. 8:10

With files from The Early Edition, Stephanie Dubois

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