From Virtual Medical Visits and Pharma Deliveries to Reducing Wait Times, Health Care Goes High-Tech
COVID-19 forced Canadians to embrace technology to stay healthy, but don’t expect it to go away post-pandemic. Photo: Ridofranz/Getty Images
In the tech world, many refer to the pandemic as “the great accelerator.”
As a society, we were already relying more and more on technology in our day-to-day life — banking online, tapping an app to order a ride, using our voice with smart speakers to get info, and so on — but lockdowns and quarantines forced us to significantly amp up the adoption of these modern conveniences.
From working at home instead of an office to video chatting with friends and family to texting a store to bring items to a curb, tech helped us get through the past couple of years.
Health care, too, has been overhauled with new apps, websites and services, making it easier and more accessible for Canadians to seek medical help. Thankfully, trends like telehealth, medication deliveries and smart imaging platforms are all here to stay as we move on from the pandemic.
Here’s a look at a few Canadian-centric examples.
Virtual Visits, Pharma Deliveries
Unless you need to see a physician in person, online doctors could help diagnose and treat a myriad of issues — whenever and wherever you may be. Platforms like Maple, TELUS MyCareHealth and Your Doctors Online make it easy to connect with licensed doctors, from your phone, tablet or computer, whether you prefer to chat by text, audio or video.
While the services vary a little between companies, you can make an appointment or chat 24/7, on-demand, whether it’s a general practitioner (GP) or specialist, such as a dermatologist or mental-health therapist.
Some platforms are free and/or covered by provincial health plans (like OHIP in Ontario), or health-care benefits coverage through your insurer or employer.
When they’re not, services are relatively affordable. Appointments to talk with a physician through Maple, for example, start at $49 per visit ($119 in Quebec), and goes up on nights and weekends. There’s also a membership option, for $30/month, which grants you up to 30 visits per year with a GP for you and your family. All records can be shared with your regular physician, if you have one.
Many of these services also include the option to fill prescriptions and have the meds ordered to your closest pharmacy for pick-up (often for same-day service) or delivered to your door.
Medical Imaging Gets Modernized
As outdated as it seems, some Canadian hospitals and clinics still hand patients a CD-ROM with medical images on them, such as X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, and CT scans.
The problem is two-fold: patients likely do not have anything to view this on (as computers haven’t shipped with these drives in years), but having your doctor see these images means they need to be hand-delivered.
Toronto-based PocketHealth, on the other hand, makes it easy to access and share your medical images, through a secured website you can view on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. Patients receive a permanent, digital copy of imaging records — in full diagnostic quality — and can then email it to any health-care professional on the planet (or print it, if desired).
Available in several provinces and U.S. states, PocketHealth costs $5 to download all your imaging from a supported hospital or clinic, or costs $49 a year for unlimited access of all your family’s imaging records, across several medical facilities.
Additional records from any facility that you have already requested from will automatically appear in your account, and you’ll be notified when they are available. PocketHealth also lets you store and share all your important medical info, including prescriptions and vaccination records.
One more benefit: when patients tap on any underlined medical jargon, the platform explains what you’re looking at in plain English — in case you’re unaware of phrases like “consolidative opacity” or “mediastinal contours.”
Lineups, Be Gone!
Should you need to see a doctor in person, such as at a walk-in clinic, tech can also help address another “pain” point: long wait times.
Supported by more than 1,200 clinics across Canada, Vancouver-based Medimap is a free-to-use, mobile-optimized website that publishes up-to-date wait times, and thus making it easy for you to see which clinic to go to in your area. In other words, if your closest clinic has a 90-minute wait time, you may opt for the second closest one, should they only have, say, a 20-minute wait.
Simply search for care by entering your location and searching for in-person (or even virtual care) appointments. See a list and map of providers in your area, and then book an appointment online.
Written by patients, Medimap also publishes reviews and ratings of walk-in clinics.
Used by more than 9 million Canadians to date, says the company — and 70 per cent of walk-in clinics across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia — Medimap has recently expanded its services to include other health-care providers, such as physiotherapists, chiropractors, optometrists, dieticians, massage therapists and mental-health facilities.
For clinics, Medimap means they can reach new patients, fill last-minute openings and deliver a better overall patient experience. While free to patients, Medimap charges clinics a subscription fee for using the platform.