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Virtual doctor appointment service working to fill health-care gaps in Manitoba


A Manitoba company is working to use virtual appointments to fill gaps in health-care.

It's called QDoc and co-founder and CEO, Dr. Norman Silver, says it's an online service offering virtual medicine to Canadians.

"A patient goes onto the system, they click ‘see doctor now,’ and then a bunch of appropriate doctors get a text message saying there’s a patient to be seen," Dr. Silver said.

Dr. Silver told CTV News the QDoc team is hoping the virtual clinic will help take some pressure off emergency rooms, as well as connect underserved areas and populations to a doctor over a device. The goal is to get patients seen in 5 to 10 minutes.

"I worked as an emergency room physician, I worked in multiple clinics,” said Dr. Silver. “We find one of the biggest problems is people don't know where to go and how to access care. So, we are trying to make it easy for them to access care and in addition easy for doctors to deliver care."

Inside the QDoc offices in Winnipeg, there are desks and chairs, but the staff there in-person are web developers working to match patients wherever they are to doctors wherever they are. All of the information collected over virtual visits also needs to be encrypted.

During the COVID-19 pandemic virtual medicine was a needed way for patients and doctors to stay connected and the province took steps quickly to make it possible.

More than two years later, what the balance should be between online and in-person medicine is a hot topic, says Dr. Candace Bradshaw, a family physician and the new president of Doctors Manitoba.

"There is a time and a place for virtual care especially in the setting and in the context of an ongoing relationship with a physician that you know well,” she said.

Bradshaw said at her practice, she does 90 per cent in person and 10 per cent virtual.

While there's still a huge patient interest in virtual care, Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association says there are limitations, which is why the CMA believes virtual visits should be linked to an in-person option.

"So if something comes up during your virtual appointment that requires a physical exam or for you to be seen by the physician, that they can then bring you into their clinic and make sure you're getting the care you need," Dr. Smart told CTV News.

Dr. Silver says QDoc patients are doing a good job of knowing when it's appropriate to log on.

He added the team behind the virtual platform is closely following the Virtual Medicine Standards of Practice set out by the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"Ninety-five per cent of our calls can be done directly by video alone and the small amount that have to be seen, we arrange for them to be seen physically," he said.

The Virtual Care Standard of Practice in Manitoba, which is set by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, states Manitoba patients have to be seen by Manitoba doctors and timely in-person care needs to be included when it’s clinically needed or asked for by a patient.

The standards for virtual care are different from province to province and Dr. Silver said QDoc is staying informed on them all.

Dr. Smart also said the big thing the CMA has been talking about this year is establishing a national medical licence.

She says that would allow for virtual care to be used in more powerful ways, like linking patients with out-of-province specialists. Top Stories

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