Ontario to expand virtual health care options and online booking for patients

Nov 13 2019, 1:23 pm

The Ontario government has introduced its new Digital First for Health strategy, which it says will bring the patient experience into the 21st century.

Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, announced the five pillars of the government’s Digital First for Health strategy on Wednesday. And according to the province, once this new strategy is fully implemented, patients can expect:

  1. More virtual care options: Expanding availability of video visits and enabling other virtual care tools such as secure messaging.
  2. Expanded access to online appointment booking: Patients will be able to book appointments that best meet their needs.
  3. Greater data access for patients: More patients will be able to review their secure health record online.
  4. Better, more connected tools for frontline providers: More providers will be able to access patient records stored across multiple health service providers to provide better, faster care.
  5. Data integration and predictive analytics: Providers will face fewer barriers to integrating and using secure health information to manage health resources and improve patient care.

“Ontario is adopting new digital practices and technologies that will improve the patient experience and help end hallway health care by expanding access to digital and virtual care options,” said Elliott.

“Our Digital First for Health strategy will support how we will achieve a modern and fully connected health care system. For Ontarians, this will mean being able to choose how they receive care and services, control over how to access personal health information, and not needing to retell their stories.”

The Ford government said the first phase of the digital strategy will increase the availability of virtual care with approximately 55,000 more video visits provided by physicians directly to patients in their location of choice over the next year.

They add that in order to do so, the government will invest $3 million in new funding to compensate physicians for video visits they are now able to provide.

This will allow patients more flexibility to access care through video visits.

“More patients will be able to have secure video visits with their health care providers from their location of choice, such as the comfort of their own home,” said the province in a statement. “Patients will still be able to see their providers in person, but this will allow providers to use video visits to provide their patients with more options to access their services.”

The government adds that video visits won’t be appropriate for every type of doctor’s visit but those who are interested should talk to their doctors to see if this solution is available and appropriate for them.

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