In order to improve access to the health network and expand the supply of care available during this pandemic, provincial governments have implemented various measures. For example, in March, each of the provinces put in place a billing code for remunerating doctors offering telemedicine. Patients can thus see a doctor by videoconference without leaving home or paying additional fees. These are temporary measures, however, which will end once the state of emergency is lifted. So far, only the Alberta government has decided to make this billing code permanent. We should follow their lead.
According to a Canadian Medical Association poll, since the start of the pandemic, telemedicine services have become much more common, and the level of satisfaction is high. Moreover, virtual consultations produce higher satisfaction among health care users than an ER visit since the arrival of COVID-19. In Quebec, 52% of respondents would prefer to use telemedicine as the first way to communicate with a doctor. If this many Quebecers were to adopt this technology, the savings would be huge.
Telemedicine has become an essential weapon in the fight against the invisible enemy that is COVID-19, but why stop there? Now that the measures are in place and that patients have gotten used to it, we should seize the opportunity to improve our health care system for the long run. Specifically, even beyond COVID-19, this inclusion and promotion of telemedicine must be maintained, as Alberta has done. With the amount of public funds spent on health care, Quebecers deserve to continue to enjoy better access to health professionals without having to languish in waiting rooms.
1. Except for the province of Manitoba, where telemedicine tariffs will be remunerated only when the patient and the doctor are each in an approved telemedicine site. Manitoba Minister of Health, Manitoba Physician’s Manual, April 1, 2020, p. B-19.
2. Ashley Joannou, “Billing codes for virtual doctor visits in Alberta now permanent, Shandro says,” The Edmonton Journal, June 8, 2020.
3. Canadian Medical Association, What Canadians Think about Virtual Health Care, May 2020, p. 3.