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More Ontario patients choosing to see their doctors in person

Virtual care will remain an important part of Ontario health care, especially for people living in rural and remote communities

More Ontario health patients are opting to see their doctors face-to-face rather than virtually, over the phone or through a computer screen. This is a significant change from what was happening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ontario Medical Association said this is based on new data from OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan), which shows that 87 per cent of all physician visits in Ontario are happening in-person, which the OMA said is a big change from the 40 per cent figure during the pandemic.

The new data shows the number of in-person visits has been rising steadily since the height of the pandemic when many non-emergency health services were cut back or shut down as a health preventive measure.

OMA President Dr. Andrew Park commented that either choice of medical delivery is appropriate.

“Both virtual and in-person care have a role to play in health-care delivery,” said Park. 

“Ontario’s doctors are committed to providing the best care possible to our patients, in the most appropriate setting.” 

The OMA said the new data revealed that of the 13 per cent of care being provided virtually, most is being done by telephone.

It was two years ago this month that a survey by the Canadian Medical Association reported a sharp increase in the number of patients seeking medical care either online or over the phone. That survey was in line with similar statistics released by Health Sciences North, which indicated that virtual medical appointments had almost tripled, running from 22,000 to nearly 58,000.

OMA executive member Dr. David Barber commented that virtual care will remain an important part of health care delivery in Ontario, especially in remote and rural areas.  

“Family physicians are the bedrock of health care delivery for Ontarians," said Barber, who is chair of the OMA’s Section on General and Family Practice.  

“While in-person clinic visits comprise the majority of patient care in the past two years, family physicians are committed to advocating for virtual care for geographically isolated or vulnerable populations. Family physicians will continue to work tirelessly to provide care for Ontarians," said Barber.

Research shows that virtual care is particularly well-suited for mental health consultations, refilling prescriptions and discussing lab and other test results. When delivered in the appropriate clinical context, virtual care can be just as effective as in-person care, said the OMA news release.


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