Nearly half of Canadians have tried virtual care amid pandemic: survey


OTTAWA — A survey by the Canadian Medical Association found almost half of those asked sought medical advice by phone, email, videoconference or text during the COVID-19 pandemic but that most people still prefer in-person visits.

The survey found satisfaction was high among the 46 per cent who tried remote methods of care, and only slightly lower than in-person visits.

Since the pandemic was declared, respondents who needed advice reached their doctor by phone more than any other method — at 34 per cent compared to 10 per cent who saw their doctor face-to-face, six per cent who went to a walk-in clinic and five per cent who went to the ER.

Another seven per cent used their provincial telehealth service, six per cent used videoconferencing, six per cent used a private virtual health provider and four per cent used text or email.

In the future, about 58 per cent said they’d prefer to reach out to a doctor in person compared to 20 per cent who prefer a phone call, 14 per cent who chose videoconference and 8 per cent who chose email or text.

The association released the findings Monday. The research used weighted data from 1,800 Canadians, collected May 14 to 17.

When asked about their willingness to use remote options in the future, younger patients and those who sought medical advice less often appeared more open to the idea.

The survey found 64 per cent of respondents aged 45 and older preferred an in-person appointment, compared to 49 per cent of patients younger than age 45 who felt the same way.

Meanwhile, 63 per cent of respondents who needed advice more than once a year said they preferred in-person visits, compared to 50 per cent of those who typically saw a doctor less than once a year.

The margin of error is +/- 2.31 per cent, 19 times out of 20.