Telehealth Use has Risen Dramatically Since the Onset of COVID-19
November 17, 2020, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
Telemedicine which was just a dream 15 years ago, and a reality for only a very few isolated communities or outer space even 10 years ago, is now a fixture in Ontario. Video and telephone medicine has replaced many routine visits to the doctor, psychiatrist, and psychologist offices. Many health care practitioners hope this will remain normal practice even after the pandemic.
Patients and their advocates say this service is a double-edged sword. It allows for better and more easily accessible healthcare and specialist consultations for many people – especially those who don’t live in large urban centres. However, it is not without serious drawbacks for the marginalized, disabled and elderly.
Many doctors who were pushing for telemedicine also warn that we are at risk of creating a two-tier healthcare system. Before the pandemic, the OHIP system simply did not allow doctors to be paid for consultations held virtually. Now the appointments are compensated and are being paid out to the health care professionals.
Half of all billed visits in May were by phone or video call, now it is down to 35% as restrictions have been eased. There is a need for telehealth, and also there is a backlog of in person appointments (physical exams for example) which need to be caught up on.
There is no word from the government whether the temporary billing codes would become permanent although they have indicated an expansion of digital and virtual care will continue to ‘’improve patient experience and convenience”. Undoubtedly many rural and northern patients should be able to access specialists without driving for hours to an appointment. Clearly, both models in person and remote have a place in ur system.
Virtual appointments do not address the need for in person wellness checks and physical procedures and exams. They do allow for a wide range of consultation and therapy prescriptions though particularly for mental health appointments. They also allow for fragile patients to be spared the difficulty of getting to an office in person. These appointments can replace some house calls for physicians as well.
Marginalized individuals and the disabled may or may not receive better care depending on their circumstances. They may also face an additional barrier to care if they are unable to use the technology. There is also concern that cases of physical and sexual abuse may not be caught if appointments are remote as the signs can easily be hidden, and privacy becomes difficult to ensure.
Telehealth in one form or another is likely here to stay. We will have to wait and see what improvements to access and care and compensation happen.
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Deutschmann Law serves South-Western Ontario with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Woodstock, Brantford, Stratford and Ayr. The law practice of Robert Deutschmann focuses almost exclusively in personal injury and disability insurance matters. For more information, please visit www.deutschmannlaw.com or call us toll-free at 1-866-414-4878.