As technology evolves, your patient care practice should evolve with it. Thanks to the introduction of "telemedicine," your practice is no longer limited by geographical boundaries. Your patients and your practice can be virtually anywhere. Secure messaging and video chat allow you to connect and care for patients — without the waiting room. These health care tools can help you serve patients and grow your practice virtually.
The New World of Digital Healthcare
Rising wait times in Canada clinics and low after-hours access have forced patients to seek new options in primary care. Health care apps like Akira, EQ Virtual, Maple, and Ask The Doctor connect patients to doctors through smartphones and computers.
“I think the health care system is going to totally integrate virtual health care just as part of the health care system — and it’s going to happen faster than people think.”
- Edward Brown, chief executive officer of the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN).
Through text messages or virtual chat, Akira allows doctors to diagnosis and prescribe medications for their patients remotely. Virtual physicians also provide referrals to specialists, order lab tests, and provide sick notes for work or school. Nurse practitioners, registered dietitians, psychotherapists and social workers are all available for virtual patient meetings. A monthly fee of $30-$50 dollars provides unlimited text and video access for individuals, couples, or entire families. Free same-day medicine delivery is also included. Patients can access their health records immediately after the visit, and request information be forwarded to their family doctor.
EQ Virtual by Equinoxe is similar to Akira. After describing symptoms, EQ Virtual directs patients to a care manager for additional questions. Then, the care manager connects the patient to a doctor. If the patient requests to see the same EQ Virtual doctor every time, wait time may increase — depending on the doctor’s availability. (Family doctors can also use the EQ Virtual platform to meet with their established patients.) After each visit, the patient reviews the doctor’s care plan. The care manager assists the patient with setting up a follow-up appointment, specialist referrals, and ordering prescriptions. EQ Virtual is covered by an existing Medical Services Plan for BC residents. For Ontario residents, however, the flat fee is $49 per consultation.
With virtual medical services, patients often pair with the first available doctor or nurse practitioner. Maple, for instance, connects patients to doctors within minutes. Maple is the first and only 24/7 on-demand medical app with virtual access to doctors for patient diagnosis, prescriptions, and advice. Maple isn’t covered by provincial health plans. Pay-per-visit pricing depends on the visit time and date (ex. holidays are more expensive). Annual memberships range from $359 – $579 for individual or family plans. Patients are not able to request a specific doctor. However, the option for 24/7 on-demand care provides patients access to after-hour and weekend care. According to a Commonwealth Fund Survey, Canada currently ranks dead last on after-hour accessibility for patient care.
Ask The Doctor
Ask The Doctor is a Toronto-based virtual service that solely provides medical advice. These virtual doctors don’t prescribe medication or order tests. Instead, Ask The Doctor focuses on fast health advice. For a fee, doctors answers patient questions within an hour. The service helps patients understand their particular health issue without the hassle of formal doctor visits. Ask The Doctor can also provide a valuable second-opinion on an existing diagnosis. Anonymous questions and answers are indexed by topic and available to the public.
Akira, EQ Virtual, Maple, and Ask The Doctor are part of the growing "doctor-in-your-pocket" movement. These virtual health care tools offer you new opportunities to serve your patients. Canadian consumers now demand better options from the healthcare field. Align your services with their needs and watch your practice grow with the times.