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Half of Canadians said they’ve increased their use of virtual health care since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey by consulting firm Calian Group Ltd.

It also found, while 49 per cent of respondents said they intend to continue using virtual care after the pandemic is over and safety precautions have been lifted, only 32 per cent found virtual care to be as effective or more effective as in-person primary care.

Almost two-thirds (60 per cent) of respondents said virtual care contributes to a resilient and sustainable health-care system, while 63 per cent said it will reduce the carbon footprint of the health system and 90 per cent said the quality of health care would improve if practitioners were able to spend more time on meaningful interactions with patients and less time on administrative work.

Read: One year later: How the pandemic sped up the shift to virtual mental-health care

More than half (53 per cent) of Canadians said they or someone in their care take one or more specialty medications for a therapeutic reason, such as mental health, oncology, neurology or cardiology. Nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) said the high cost of some specialty medications can prevent them from proceeding with treatment, while 80 per cent said programs designed to provide personalized support through all aspects of their treatment journey are critical to their treatment. Nearly half (45 per cent) said adherence phone calls from nurses help them stick to a drug treatment, while 43 per cent said their diagnosis makes the health-care system difficult to navigate.

A majority (80 per cent) of survey respondents said they value calls, emails and text messages to remind them of medical appointments, medication refills and the time for their next dose, while 90 per cent said they value educational information on required treatment and lifestyle changes. And among patients who take one or more specialty medications, 87 per cent said communication across their entire circle of care improved their experience as a patient.

“The pandemic very abruptly shifted the way health care is delivered in Canada, especially in regard to those who use specialty drugs,” said Kaytlin Sadler, vice-president of Alio Health Services, a Calian company. “Virtual care provides another layer of support that can increase engagement and access, as long as patients are always at the centre of care.”

Read: Why digital health care is here to stay following pandemic