Cardiologists say Doug Ford Government Must Make Changes Before December 1st Deadline
TORONTO, Nov. 17, 2022 /CNW/ – Ontario cardiologists are appealing to the Ontario government to make changes to new rules that will govern the delivery of virtual care services across the province starting December 1, 2022.
The new rules prohibit or cut funding for virtual care services that cardiac patients have been able to receive by telephone for the past two-and-a-half years. Specifically, virtual consultations on new patients will only be allowed if provided by video conferencing (e.g. Zoom). Furthermore, funding for follow-up virtual patient visits provided by telephone will be cut. These restrictions will affect many Ontario seniors and rural patients, who either do not use video technology or are unable to use it because of a lack of high-speed internet, and will force them to go to their cardiologist’s office to receive these services.
“We are very concerned about elderly patients who don’t use computers and those without internet access who will once again have to travel long distances to see a specialist,” said Dr. Richard Davies, Vice Chair of the OMA Section on Cardiology and Board Member of the Ontario Association of Cardiologists. “With COVID cases expected to rise this winter, patients may be anxious about going into a busy cardiologist’s office. Unnecessary travel is also difficult and time consuming for them and their family members who often must accompany them.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, patients have embraced telephone virtual care services. Cardiologists use telephone virtual care for appropriate patients for whom video conferencing does not work. This can occur because of a lack of sufficient internet bandwidth, or because the patient is simply uncomfortable using the necessary technology. An important lesson cardiologists learned during the pandemic is that medically appropriate, high quality virtual cardiac consultations and follow up visits can be performed successfully by telephone as long as best practice guidelines are followed.
Significant Patient Cost Savings Associated With Virtual Care
Last month, researchers at ICES, Lawson Health Research Institute, and Western University published a study showing that virtual care provided in Ontario during the pandemic was associated with a significant reduction in patient travel-related expenses. For more than 10 million patients with at least one virtual appointment during the study period (63 million visits in total), virtual care was associated with estimated savings of:
- 2 billion kilometres of patient travel; and
- $569 to $733 million in patient expenses for gasoline, parking, or public transit.
Importantly, 91% of the virtual patient visits done during the study were conducted by telephone. With the new virtual care rules that restrict telephone patient visits coming into effect on December 1st, patient costs associated with accessing care will rise.
“There is no medical, financial, or clinical reason to prohibit new patient visits or reduce funding for follow-up visits provided by telephone. The new rules make it more difficult and more expensive for patients to receive the timely cardiac care they need,” said Dr. Davies. “For the sake of Ontario seniors and rural patients across the province, we call on the Ford government to remove the restrictions on telephone virtual care services contained in the new rules that come into effect on December 1, 2022.”
For further information:
Tim Holman, Executive Director
Ontario Association of Cardiologists
E-mail: [email protected]