It’s a tough reality in Canada that obstacles like long doctor’s office wait times and difficulty getting appointments on weekends and outside of work hours lead many Canadians to delay or avoid getting the medical care they need. For those who have family doctors, 20% wait a week or longer to see them, while many of the 4.5-million Canadian residents without family doctors turn to emergency rooms for non-urgent health issues. One study on Canadian ER’s revealed that 57% of trips taken were for conditions characterized as “less urgent” or “non-urgent.” In 2016, 90% of ER visits in Canada took 7.8 hours to complete!
The advent of virtual healthcare poses an exciting solution, with on-demand care from doctors and registered nurses who can make diagnoses, write prescriptions and arrange referrals in minutes. Skeptical? A recent study completed in British Columbia revealed that 79% of patients who experienced an online doctor visit reported the quality of care was identical to that of an in-person visit, and 91% stated the virtual appointment helped them deal with their health issue.
Certain diagnostics, emergency care and disease management still require in-person assessments, however many health concerns can and are being successfully treated virtually — with zero waiting, travel or time off work required by patients.
Here are five common health issues that can be treated with an online doctor visit
1. MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
Out-of-pocket costs paired with stigma and time pressures continue to make it difficult for Canadians to prioritize their mental and emotional health. Even with more employee assistance programs available to employees, many Canadians are challenged with scheduling and feel insecure about leveraging such resources to get the mental health support they need.Online mental healthcare services can bridge this gap with convenient and private care. As the second most common use of Akira by TELUS Health, the desire for and effectiveness of virtual mental healthcare services is clear. Anxiety, depression (without suicidal or homicidal ideation), acute adjustment disorder and acute stress reaction are commonly and successfully treated virtually.
Note: Those suffering from acute suicidal or homicidal risk, addiction, attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder or requiring renewal of benzodiazepine or stimulant prescriptions should receive in-person treatment.
One of the top three issues treated on the Akira by TELUS Health virtual healthcare platform is dermatology, which lends itself wonderfully to online doctors visits thanks to high-resolution mobile cameras. From shingles to fungal infections to hand, foot and mouth disease — most non-urgent dermatological concerns no longer require an in-person consult with your local clinic or family doctor. Eczema, acne, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, scabies, herpes and many other skin conditions can be diagnosed and managed virtually. If needed, a referral to a dermatologist can be arranged with the tap of a button, while prescriptions can be sent to your pharmacy almost instantly.
Note: Diabetic foot ulcers, infected animal bites, complicated wounds with active infection or requiring sutures, angioama, conditions requiring dermatoscope evaluation and oncology should be addressed in person.
3. COLD, FLU AND RESPIRATORY ISSUES
The most common use of Akira by TELUS Health is by Canadians suffering from colds, flus and respiratory issues. Concerns like acute coughs, stable asthma, acute upper respiratory tract infections and flus without alarming symptoms can be successfully addressed with an online doctor visit from the comfort of home. Your on-demand doctor or nurse practitioner can prescribe antibiotics or refer you to a respirologist if needed — while you rest and recover. Sleep apnea assessments can even be arranged virtually!
Note: Respiratory issues including hemoptysis, flu with complications, respiratory distress, decompensated asthma and oncology should be addressed in person.
Read our Virtual Healthcare Industry Report for more information
4. SPRAINS, STRAINS, CUTS AND BURNS
We’ve all been there: pulling up to a packed emergency room with a sports injury, kitchen burn or cut, only to wait several hours as a non-urgent patient. Fortunately, most sprains and strains, minor cuts, burns and back pains can be assessed and treated with an online doctor visit via your computer, smartphone or tablet. Additionally, making a trip to your family doctor simply to obtain a referral to a sports therapist, podiatrist, physiotherapist, RMT or chiropractor is a thing of the past with virtual care, which allows these to be made in minutes.
Note: Musculoskeletal issues like spinal cord compression, acute complex fractures, acute trauma, concussions, new acute pain with possible complications and renewal of opioid prescriptions should be addressed in person.
5. HEAD, EYE, EAR, NOSE AND THROAT ISSUES
A common cold, head, eye, ear, nose and throat issue can be a nuisance to deal with since they occur so frequently in Canadian households. The advent of virtual healthcare paired with smart device camera capabilities can make diagnosing and treating concerns like conjunctivitis, sinusitis, sore throats, thrush, rhinitis and allergies as simple as a video chat.
Other issues like earaches, tension headaches and migraines without complications can also be treated on-demand from your home or office, while referrals to ear, nose and throat specialists and allergists can be made on the spot.
Note: Oncology, epistaxis, otitis media, peritonsillar abscess and cerumen cleaning should be addressed in person.
With rising smartphone use and ongoing supply and demand challenges within the Canadian healthcare system, it’s no surprise that more and more Canadians are opting to supplement traditional medical appointments with online doctor visits. Another benefit? The convenience of virtual care also encourages people to initiate healthcare earlier, before minor issues have the potential to become more serious health problems.
Would you use a virtual healthcare app to treat your common health concerns? Click here to check your eligibility for Akira by TELUS Health or to learn more about telemedicine and virtual healthcare.
Note: medical conditions indicated as being virtually treatable may require in-person consultations if alarming symptoms are present and/or if the clinician is unable to provide optimal care virtually.
1. IPSOS (2017), Seven in Ten Canadians (68%) Have Skipped Seeing a Doctor Due to Long Wait Times, Timeliness or Other Barriers Half of Ontarians (49%) Interested in Online Appointments with Ontario-Based Doctors, retrieved from: www.ipsos.com
2. Statistics Canada (2014), Access to a regular medical doctor, retrieved from: www150.statcan.gc.ca
5. Canada Health Infoway (2015), retrieved from: www.infoway-inforoute.ca
6. AON Hewitt (2014), The Consumer Health Mindset, retrieved from: www.aon.com
7.. Neilson Total Audience (2016), The Total Audience Report: Q1 2016, retrieved from https://www.nielsen.com