Virtual care is an important tool in Ontario's efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
To broaden the effective use of virtual care services, the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), OntarioMD (OMD) and the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN, now a division of Ontario Health), have joined forces to share key information and develop new tools that will make it easier and safer for patients to connect with doctors during the pandemic—ensuring virtual care is accessible for all Ontarians.
Direct-to-patient video visits and telephone appointments allow physicians, health care providers and patients to connect safely at a distance, minimizing the risk of infection.
Virtual care can keep patients with manageable symptoms safe from exposure at home, get those who need it the care they need when and where they need it, lower the risk of infection for care providers, and help in Ontario's collective effort to "flatten the curve" to protect our hospitals and their employees.
Broader use of virtual care can help manage patient loads more effectively, keep COVID-19- infected people away from others, assist those with other medical needs during the pandemic , and enable emergency departments and other hospital facilities to operate as safely and efficiently as possible under quickly changing circumstances.
The Ministry of Health is encouraging doctors to use virtual care whenever possible and appropriate.
Virtual care can be used effectively to:
- Screen patients
- Gather patient history, including travel and exposure detail
- Assess symptoms, severity and treatment options
- Monitor progress and check in on patients in isolation
- Communicate with multiple individuals at once, including family members and/or caregivers
- Connect with colleagues to share information and seek additional clinical input/advice
- Treat clinically appropriate conditions that may not require an in-person visit
- Assist those who are experiencing mental health challenges
The Ministry of Health has introduced important measures to encourage wider virtual care adoption across the province. They include:
- Temporary billing codes to allow doctors to bill for virtual visits by video and audio
- Allowing providers to use the virtual-care options and solutions of their choice, including OTN solutions and those of third-party providers
You can access important Information on temporary billing codes and procedures here.
Additional resources on COVID-19, as well as virtual care, can be found at:
Among the many resources available are virtual care solution guidance, sign up information, instructional videos and troubleshooting guides, and patient resources.
Providers and patients alike are reminded that under current Ministry of Health protocols:
- Patients can access the Ministry of Health's online COVID-19 self-assessment tool
- Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or contact their local health unit for assessment and further instructions
- Walk-in patients should not visit COVID-19 testing centres without a referral
- Symptomatic patients should NOT go to emergency departments or clinics unless directed
- Patients should call 911 only in the event of genuine emergency
The OHA, OMA, OMD and OTN are committed to working collaboratively with the Ministry of Health, Ontario Health, Ontario's front-line care providers and other stakeholders, to deliver care that is as safe and effective as possible.
The well-being of patients and their families—and all Ontarians—remain our top shared priority.