In terms of healthcare, recent research says that online mobile apps and experiences are also evolving patient expectations and the idea of receiving care anytime, anywhere. Healthcare consumers want to be able to access care when, where, and how it suits them best – a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. This has brought with it the expectation of digital tools to be a core part of healthcare delivery systems.
Yet in Canada virtual and on-demand care have not yet been widely adopted in healthcare facilities. In fact, a recent survey by the Canadian Medical Association shows that only one in 10 respondents report having had a virtual medical consultation, while 7 in 10 respondents said they would take the opportunity to have a virtual visit if available. Other survey data shows that 71% of Canadians would like to be able to book appointments electronically but just 9% of family physicians currently offer this option; while 41% of Canadians would like have video visits with their health care provider but just 4% of family physicians offer this option.
As busy millennials and members of Generation Z demand a more accessible and convenient healthcare system, and as the ageing boomer population continues to contribute to the $36.2 billion telehealth industry, organizations must plan to provide more access to on-demand virtual care to more Canadian across the country.
Allowing patients to connect with healthcare providers face-to-face in real-time through apps and web sites using their phones or computers, on-demand virtual care enables physicians to deliver care more quickly than in a traditional office visit setting. On-demand virtual care also helps physicians overcome other barriers to care, such as geography and distance.
Above all else, on-demand healthcare is about convenience and is not appropriate for life-threatening emergencies, nor should it replace an annual or critical care exam, it does allow patients to video chat with their doctors, or submit their symptoms via online tools. On-demand care also means that patients can receive remote diagnosis, healthcare monitoring and healthcare referrals, book their appointments online, receive mental health counselling remotely, and access a variety of specialty care services. Thanks to technology and on-demand care, more healthcare services can be offered to patients more frequently.
Most patients prefer accessing healthcare that is closer to home. However, almost 9 million Canadians -- about 30% of Canada's population -- live in rural and remote areas of the country, where access to healthcare that urban dwellers consider routine is rarely found. People in rural communities also have the added stress of paying for travel, accommodation, and meals to access the care they need when travelling to city centres to receive it.
Whether serving patients in busy city centres or remote locations, physicians offering on-demand virtual care and remote patient monitoring are providing patients with the added convenience of receiving care in the comfort of their own homes.
The healthcare landscape is changing, with more consumers expecting personalized healthcare services from their healthcare facilities. They also want easy to access information where health information flows seamlessly among healthcare providers, specialists, and the patient, so that they can make informed decisions about their care. In other words, patients want to feel empowered through greater digital engagement. They want the personalized and easily accessible services in healthcare that they have grown accustomed to receiving in other industries. As patient expectations grow, and as more patients take control of their own healthcare, organizations must position themselves to offer on demand virtual care to ensure their patient populations remain contented.
Access to Digital Care in Canada
Despite the growing demand for more engaging digital experiences in healthcare, with approximately 70% of consumers preferring digital solutions to phone or in-person for healthcare visits, there still exists a lack of on-demand virtual care services across Canada.
To address that gap the in virtual care access, the Canadian Medical Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada have struck a Virtual Health Care Task Force with the participation of other national medical associations and patients to develop recommendations that will help to increase the adoption of virtual care across Canada.
Although the on-demand care model is still in its infancy, healthcare organizations will have to adopt new on-demand healthcare policies in order honour the expectations of today’s patient population.