Majority of Canadians would take advantage of virtual doctor visits: survey

More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of Canadians would use virtual visits for at least a few of their appointments with physicians, according to a new survey by the Canadian Medical Association.

The survey, which queried more than 2,000 people, shed some light on technology and health care, as well as the generation gap between older Canadians and those in the so-called Google generation, aged 18 to 34.

Virtual visits to doctors held the most appeal for the younger demographic (47 per cent) compared to 31 per cent of those aged 55 and older. The survey also found the idea of virtual visits is most popular with certain groups of Canadians, including those who use the health-care system 11 or more times per year, parents and people in the Google generation.

Read: A look at video health-care visits as an option for plan sponsors

“Technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual monitoring provide an opportunity to address the health needs of the Google generation as they embrace technology in all facets of their lives,” said Laurent Marcoux, president of the Canadian Medical Association, in a news release. “The way this generation manages and tracks their health is much different than any other demographic group. To ensure we are ready to tackle this new wave of tech-savvy patients, we need to have the right policies as well as action plans to futurize our health-care ecosystem.”

Despite the high percentage of survey respondents who said they’d use a virtual doctor visit or consultation, less than one in 10 Canadians have actually done so. Two-thirds (66 per cent) felt virtual visits would lead to more timely care, 63 per cent felt they would be more convenient and 51 per cent felt they would lead to overall better health care.

Read: Virtual care among ‘dramatic change’ predicted for benefits plans in future

However, 67 per cent felt virtual visits would lead to a loss of human touch and compassion in health care, 64 per cent don’t feel the diagnosis would be accurate if they weren’t seen in person by a doctor and 54 per cent are worried about the privacy of health information.

“We need to look at this information as a warning sign,” said Marcoux. “Every generation presents a new challenge to our health-care system, but with the Google Generation, health care is about convenience and timeliness, and the current system does not provide for that.”

Among findings among those aged 18 to 34, nearly half (44 per cent) track their health with wearable technology compared to 27 per cent of the general population. Only 51 per cent of the younger demographic were worried about privacy pertaining to virtual visits.

Read: Acceptance of digital health tools on the rise

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of survey respondents would be more likely to use a health monitoring device if it was recommended by their doctor. This compares to 52 per cent who would use it if it was connected to an artificial intelligence program that monitored the information, made diagnoses and prescribed medication and treatments.

Overall, the survey found that 75 per cent of those surveyed would like to see more technology as part of the Canada’s health-care system.

In light of these findings, should employers be incorporating more technology and virtual health-care options into their benefits plans? Have your say in our weekly online poll here.

Last week’s poll question asked whether employers should evolve their policies to include bereavement leave for the death of a pet. The majority (59 per cent) of respondents said no, provincial and federal legislation already provides adequate leave for bereavement, while 41 per cent said yes, bereavement leave should expand its definition of family member.

Read: Quebec tribunal sides with employer in feline bereavement dispute