For Dr. Meghan Wilson from the Department of Family Medicine, the shift to digital health care came when COVID-19 hit earlier this year. “When the pandemic started is when I got my Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) account so I could start doing OTN appointments. The only other type of virtual care I provide is through the telephone. I do prefer OTN to the telephone though so you can see the person and their facial expressions. It’s always a great thing to have during COVID when we weren’t really bringing people in during the first few months.”
Dr. Wilson said one of the principles of the Department of Family Medicine is accessibility and that is the number one benefit of eVisits and virtual health care. “The benefits are in my opinion for patients. There is a lot of convenience for patients and I will definitely continue to use OTN past the pandemic. It’s a benefit to the patients if they don’t have to take a day off work and if they can set up a private space to take the call.”
That being said, Dr. Wilson does prefer in-person meetings with her patients. “I can think of a few cases where seeing patients in their home environment was helpful to me. Virtual care doesn’t replace in-person visits, though OTN being a virtual face-to-face platform more closely approximates an in-person visit.”
The Department of Family Medicine is also working in other realms of digital health care. “There is research ongoing in the Department with virtual supervision of residents because we’re a teaching site,” she says.
Dr. Wilson also says good infrastructure is key to the lasting success of digital health care. “It’s important to have good infrastructure to support virtual health care and ensure we have the capacity for virtual care in the future.”
Overall, Dr. Wilson wants patients to know one thing: that virtual health care is a viable option. “I want them to know it’s available because I think people are deferring care during the pandemic. Also, during their appointment, that time is dedicated to them. It’s useful to se aside that chunk of time, find somewhere you can access your technology and somewhere you can speak to your doctor in private – those are tips on how to make your appointment go well.”