Virtual care promises a future of abundance

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  • Sina Habibollahi says:

    VC is an undeniable part of healthcare’s future, it is just a matter of when it will become part of the routine healthcare system. To answer that we should first see what are the barriers and limitations here. I think there are two barriers here: first, it is a new thing and by law always new things no matter how good they are, they will always have a hard time being accepted. There might be even some concerns about the routine and classic role of a physician at the clinic, and it might be thought by moving from the traditional task of a physician at the clinic to VC, we can not have the same old image of the physician at the clinic. But here we have to wait and see what is our goal here? is it just a matter of the traditional image and nostalgia role of the physician at the clinic/hospital or is bringing the best possible healthcare service for patients? I think the answer is obvious, but why I think that VC will bring a better healthcare service? I will answer that in the explanation about the second limitation, which is the lack of physical exam. As was mentioned in this article “diagnostic accuracy in virtual visits is 71-91 percent, similar to in-person visits”.Therefore, looks like physical exams do not make a significant difference in the rate of accurate diagnosis. I think we can even take it one step further. We can consider using a home medical device like nowadays smartwatch which can measure vital signs to some extent and hopefully in the future they become more advance and can gather more info about the physical exam, and their findings might even be more accurate than the clinic physical exam.

    Bottom line, our goal is to bring the best possible healthcare service, and to achieve this goal, we need to optimize our healthcare system and a big portion of this optimization is to make the VC a more routine part of our healthcare system.

  • Briam Jimenez Lopez says:

    This was a very thought provoking read! I am an advocate for change and acceptance of new technology to improve our everyday lives. That being said, I believe that VC definitely has promise in the future of medicine, but should not completely eliminate the delivery of physical care. During the pandemic, my father required a referral from a physician but was told he could not physically see one and had to resort to a phone consultation. This was difficult for him as his english is not proficient enough to explain his symptoms with fine detail and he prefers to physically show where he feels certain discomforts. This is a major limitation in my opinion because it reduces the possibility of physicians to make an accurate diagnosis and could lead to further complications of certain conditions that are not attended to accordingly. I believe VC delivery should be more focused on minor discomforts that do not require the physical assessment of a physician such as a common cold. VC can also be a promising method for patients to obtain prescriptions without having to endure long waiting periods at walk-in clinics or a family doctor’s office. All in, I believe VC should be integrated as an acceptable form of care, but in moderation depending on the severity of a patients’ symptoms.

  • Megan says:

    A well-done piece! Virtual care presents many benefits to the patient as well as the healthcare system. Being confined to a waiting room in a doctor’s office for hours, only to be seen for 15 minutes, can be a frustrating experience for both parties. Safety concerns are at an all-time high with the current pandemic. The innovation of virtual care creates freedom and flexibility, and indeed “promises a future of abundance”! As with most things in medicine, this comes with limitations and should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

  • Othman Farahneh says:

    Although VC is very useful in cases such as pandemics, patients in rural areas, patients with disabilities, and others, the limitations that accompany it are really challenging. I do not know if an audio-only encounter will be sufficient to build a good doctor-patient relationship, in addition, how physicians will be able to provide a sufficient physical examination. I think that when doctors are not able to perform a physical exam, this will lead them to order more tests and images and that will have a bad impact on the health system in general and on the patients specifically. I still think VC will be a good addition to the medical system in Canada and the world, but it must have specific limitations and regulations.

  • Toby Stewart says:

    It is possible now… we have the technologies… and it should be made a priority. I have just ‘attended’ a virtual webinar sponsored by InfoWay… and other countries in Europe have been doing this for years.
    Yet here in Canada/Ontario, we’ve already spent hundreds of million$$$ trying to re-invent the e-health wheel — when we could simply have ‘bought’ existing national IT/e-Health systems that are proven to deliver effective results.
    I know the answer is: “It’s the CONSTITUTION stupid!!” … and that’s not the only thing that’s stupid — LOL!

  • Alan Katz says:

    Our enthusiasm for virtual care should not deny the very real advantages of of patient touch and the value of physical examination of the patient. Our early , as yet unpublished, experience suggests that virtual care increases the use of imaging, other investigations, and specialist consultation as the reassurance provided by the physical exam is not available. This increases cost to the system but can also increase patient anxiety: “why do I need those extra tests, it must be serious”. The fragmentation of care mentioned is a symptom of decreased trust. I see my role as a family physician as being rooted in the doctor-patient relationship, what Ian McWhinney called “being present” with the patient. We need to better understand how to maintain our human relationships effectively through virtual contact with patients. While lots of energy is going into technical and financial solutions we should not neglect our fundamental interpersonal interactions as a key component of the a future that includes more virtual care. Access is one component, but access to what?


Helen Senderovich


Helen Senderovich is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, practicing palliative care and geriatrics at Baycrest, a clinician-teacher, researcher and an author of manuscripts and books.

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