Virtual Visits: Friend or Foe of Patient-centred Care?

Friday, 3 February 2017 - 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
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Virtual (video) visits are a new form of primary care that is increasingly available in parts of  Canada. There is a need to develop an understanding of patient perspectives on virtual visits and how they affect patient experience, access to care, and health services utilization patterns from a system perspective. We conducted a patient survey and an observation study on the users and providers of virtual visits in BC, where there has been public funding for this care since October 2012. Data analysis used fee-for-service physician payment data, patient and physician demographic data, and PharmaNet prescription data, from 2010/11–2013/14. We examined overall utilization of GP virtual visits to understand the characteristics of providers and patients providing and using these services, and conducted time series analyses to answer the question of whether virtual visits displace or add to other forms of patient care. Virtual visits are still a small portion of total primary care but are expected to increase. We find that patients use these services to see both known and new providers, and that these scenarios have different outcomes. Virtual visits may be one means of making the health system more patient-centred, but these effects depend on how they are integrated into existing health care delivery systems.