Virtual care’s continued evolution: changing attitudes & innovations across Canada

Virtual care’s continued evolution: changing attitudes & innovations across Canada

By Christina Jones, Data Analyst, OMD

As the world adapts to daily life during COVID-19, virtual care is becoming a conventional mode of health care delivery – and will continue to complement in-person visits even after the pandemic is behind us.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, physical distancing measures designed to keep Canadians safe have “led to the adoption of virtual care out of necessity. We need to build on this momentum. Canadians should be able to access health care in a timely and convenient fashion”. 1


A Canadian Medical Association (CMA) poll in May 2020 found that since the pandemic was declared 34% of Canadians used the phone to seek advice from their doctor and of that group 91% were satisfied with their experience.  Looking to the future, 38% of Canadians surveyed stated a preference for virtual medical care over an in-person appointment[ii].  The 2021 National Survey of Canadian Physicians conducted by Canada Health Infoway and the CMA revealed that:

  • 94% of physicians surveyed currently provide patient care via virtual means
  • Physicians offered virtual care by:
    • Telephone (93%)
    • Video visits (51%)
    • Secure email or messaging (36%)

Physicians were asked what proportion of patient visits were delivered by various means. They reported:

  • 49% were in person
  • 39% by telephone
  • 10% by video
  • 2% by secure email/messaging[iii].

In virtual care’s continued evolution, the technologies that enable remote care are expanding, making more health care delivery possible from a safe distance. Here are some examples of virtual care innovations popping up in different clinical settings across Canada:

  • Health care resource management

Traction Thrive Critical Care Resource Management.  Adopted by 36 hospitals in British Columbia, this open-source application was designed to view, track, and allocate health care personnel, PPE, ventilator availability and other critical supplies in real-time[i].  Based on this centralized repository, health care providers can better allocate and report on health resource needs in real time. 

  • Inpatient & long-term care

Raspberry Pi simple computer. A computer the size of a credit card attached to the fingertip probe, which can continuously read data and communicate via Wi-Fi to a server enabling clinicians to monitor a patient’s in-room vitals remotely from a nursing station computer or smartphone[ii] reducing the risk to health professionals and conserving the amount of PPE used[iii]. Prototypes of the device are trialed at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto with plans to expand to long-term care and retirement facilities.

  • Perioperative care

Vivify Health BYOD Remote Care. Vivify’s “bring your own device” (BYOD) platform can be deployed on patients’ existing devices including a tablet or smartphone, enabling remote care on a larger scale[iv].  The University Health Network hospitals are the first in Canada to introduce Vivify’s BYOD Platform allowing patients to self-monitor and be more engaged in their care in pre-op, post-op, and post-discharge stages of surgery.

As virtual care progresses, OntarioMD (OMD) Patient Leader Sydney Graham notes, “to sustain this transition as a new mainstream form of health care delivery, we need to explore the patient side of delivery and include vital data to address any challenges or harms this poses. Choice needs to be the operative word, ensuring success for both provider and patient”.  

For more information on virtual care tools used by clinicians, please visit OMD’s Virtual Care is here to Stay page or the CMA’s Virtual Care Playbook. OMD is also available to help you with your virtual care tools and how to incorporate them into your workflows. Contact support@ontariomd.com to connect to one of our knowledgeable staff.

Register (free) for Digital Health and Virtual Care Day on September 30, 2021

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[1] Canadian Medical Association, June 2020. Virtual care is real care: National poll shows Canadians are overwhelmingly satisfied with virtual health care.

[2] CMA & Abacus Data, May 2020.  What Canadians think about virtual health care.

[3] Canada Health Infoway and the Canadian Medical Association.  2021 National Survey of Canadian Physicians. August 11, 2021 and Canada Health Infoway Insights.

[4] Traction Thrive Critical Care Resource Management.

[5] MacInnis, Jessica.  U of T researchers use mini-computer to remotely monitor COVID-19 patients’ blood oxygen. UofT News. April 17, 2020. Accessed May 28, 2020.

[6] CBC News. A computer ‘the size of a credit card’ could help doctors monitor COVID-19 patients remotely. April 22, 2020. Accessed May 28, 2020.

[7] Vivifyhealth. Remote Patient Monitoring Service Expands into Population Health with BYOD. June 30, 2015. Accessed May 28, 2020.



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