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Virtual care

Virtual care has the potential to increase access to primary and specialist care for patients in Canada, particularly those in rural and remote communities.

While the technology to deliver virtual care exists, many barriers remain to its widespread adoption — including payment models, licensure and quality standards, interoperability and governance, and education and training.

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What is virtual care?

Simply put, virtual care is a way of talking about all the ways patients and doctors can use technology to communicate in real-time. For example, telehealth or video consultations.

What is the Virtual Task Force?

The Virtual Care Task Force was created in March 2019 by the Canadian Medical Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

In addition, the task force comprised representatives from regulatory bodies, medical and health care organizations, e-health industry, patients and families, and caregivers.

The Virtual Care Task Force’s work focused on four key areas

The recommendations outlined in this report detail steps Canadian physicians feel are necessary to optimize the use of virtual care tools and platforms by physicians and patients in a way that meets patient needs and satisfies physician concerns.

Interoperability and governance

  • A National Charter of Patient Health Information Rights and Responsibilities
  • A pan-Canadian framework for patient-centric health information architecture
  • A set of national standards for patient health information access

Licensure and quality of care

  • Increased support regulatory bodies to simplify registration and licensure processes
  • A national framework to regulate safety of virtual care technology and systems, liability for physicians and Indigenous virtual care standards

Payment models

  • Provincial and territorial governments and key associations to develop new fee schedules that are revenue neutral to support the implementation of virtual care.

Medical education

  • The development of standards for lexicon and accreditations lexicon for virtual care;
  • The incorporation (and update of) virtual care competencies for undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education.

A pan-Canadian framework for virtual care: Recommendations for scaling up virtual medical services

The report outlines the actions required to promote excellence in virtual care in Canada and sets the stage for broader discussion and more detailed efforts.

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