The pandemic of COVID-19 has caused an explosion in the number of telemedicine consultations. In total, more than 2.2 million appointments by phone or video conferencing have taken place over the last three months for a total bill of $239 million.
Long shunned by many doctors, telemedicine has become one of the only ways to follow up patients during the containment. According to the data obtained from the Régie de l’assurance-maladie du Québec, the pandemic has completely changed the game.
In total, more than 15 000 doctors have billed appointment at a distance since mid-march. The total amount requested by family physicians for this type of meeting was $ 152 million $ and some more $ 86 million for their specialist colleagues.
For Dr. Abdo Shabah, this view is going to revolutionize the work of doctors.
“The population has experienced something new, or have access to a doctor by a click, an email or text message. This is a practice that the pandemic has permitted, ” said an emergency room doctor who serves in the canadian medical Association.
The president of the Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec, Louis Godin, believes that the pandemic has accelerated the transition to telemedicine.
“It is a change amazing in the way of practise. It had been months that we talked about it and it went very well, it will be appreciated of doctors “, he said during a recent interview.
Prior to the pandemic, there was no code specific act for the compensation of telemedicine, which also worked against its deployment.
Dr. Shabah said that this has helped to improve patient access to health care. The place sure beats sitting for hours in the clinics, they were able to get an appointment without having to move.
Some patients have even had the surprise to get an appointment they were waiting for a year or two.
Not for all
For Dr. Marie-Pascale Pomey, the remote consultation and does not apply to all types of consultations. She gives the example of the announcement of a cancer diagnosis.
“There has been during the containment, and it has been catastrophic,” said the professor at the School of public health of the University of Montreal.
For her, the telemedicine will survive the pandemic, including for some tracking or for patients who live far from the clinic of their physician.
Telemedicine by the numbers
- Number of physicians : 7145
- Number of patients* : 1 506 083
- Charges** : $152 Million
- Number of physicians : 6162
- Number of patients* : 726 014
- Charges** : $86 Million
Source : Régie de l’assurance-maladie du Québec. * The number of patients is possibly under-valued, since for some of the acts charged, the doctors didn’t identify the patient. * * * Are preliminary since the doctors have 120 days to submit their billing.