Opinion: Keep the virtual health-care revolution going


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“Is this service really necessary?” speaks to the issue of medical appropriateness, which took on greater importance during the pandemic, when both patients and providers weighed the benefit of treatment against the risk of infection. In some cases, both sides may agree that no treatment is really required. Routine pre-operative testing before low-risk surgeries, like cataract operations, is a good example of a service that could just be done away with.

“Can it be delivered virtually?” is about more than simply Zoom. The video and telephone visits with providers that Canadians have grown used to since last spring could be expanded to include asynchronous messaging like email, remote monitoring of patients using such wearable devices as the Apple Watch, or online mental health counselling. Before COVID, many Canadians felt they had no choice but to incur the personal costs of visiting their health-care provider. Now that they know such costs really aren’t necessary, they may well insist — and in our view they should — on virtual service.

As to the “right place for in-person contact,” even if a health service really does need to be delivered in person, a hospital or clinic isn’t necessarily the best place for meeting. Home-based therapies, for example, delivered by homecare nurses and connected to the broader care team digitally, could be promising ways to manage patients with such chronic diseases as heart failure.

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