ERs weren't a plan B in Ontario during the pandemic, study finds

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Emergencies not a plan B in Ontario during pandemic, study finds

The study also demonstrates that telemedicine has become widespread to the point of constituting almost half of the consultations.

The objective of the study was to determine whether patients turned to the emergency department when in-person care was unavailable.

When health measures made access to care difficult during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, patients did not turn to emergency departments any more, according to a study published Monday by the Medical Association of Ontario (AMO).

The objective of this study conducted between April 2020 and March 2021 was to assess whether switching from in-person medical visits to virtual visits was associated with increased use of emergency departments by patients.

In other words, if the obligatory transition to telemedicine dissuaded people from using it for any reason whatsoever, and if they had favored emergency province in hopes of seeing a doctor in person.

We know the emergency department has been strained, says AMO President Dr. Zacharias. People are wondering what has contributed to the strain on emergency departments and […] we know from this study that the move to virtual care in family physicians' offices is not ;did not contribute to the pressure on emergency services.

Not only did the AMO fail to find evidence that patients have replaced virtual consultations with emergency room visits, but more importantly, the association has seen a meteoric rise in telemedicine consultations over the past four years. Proof, she concludes, of the social acceptability of virtual medicine.

In 2018, only 4% of family doctors in Canada offered remote consultations. Telemedicine has become so widespread during the pandemic that now around 40% of medical consultations are done virtually, relays the AMO.

However, the association was unable to tell Radio-Canada whether the upsurge in telemedicine consultations was accompanied by an increase in medical consultations carried out daily by a doctor. all modes combined or in what proportions.

The results of the study carried out among some 8000 doctors support the relevance of the use of telemedicine, argues the president of the Ontario Medical Association.

At this point, we see a benefit to the patient in accessing their doctor virtually on the fringes of the doctor-patient relationship, and so we will continue to advocate for [telemedicine] on behalf of our patients,” Dr. Rose Zacharias said.

Dr. Rose Zacharias, President of the Ontario Medical Association

In a context of shortage of health personnel, the benefits are numerous, lists this emergency doctor: in addition to the practical aspect, there is no need to take a day off sick to see the doctor, she points out. Telemedicine can be used for renewing prescriptions, reading test results, or even for mental health follow-ups, she continues.

“For all these positives, I think telemedicine is here to stay. »

— Dr. Rose Zacharias, President of the Ontario Medical Association

This new finding is important given concerns about the negative effects of virtual care on quality care, points out the AMO.

The study also recommends that future research focus on the long-term impact of virtual care on the access and quality of patient care.

In detail, analysts found that the proportion of virtual visits was higher and the number of emergency room visits per patient was lower among female physicians than among male physicians.

Another finding was that older physician age was associated with fewer emergency department visits.

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