Virtual Care in Ontario
From December 1st, 2022: Virtual care in Ontario has changed
As a result of decisions made by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) and the Ontario Ministry of Health, OHIP-funded virtual primary care and urgent care services will are no longer available on Rocket Doctor.
There is a serious healthcare problem in Ontario, and we have developed a viable Canadian-built technology-enabled solution to help solve it. But as of December 1st 2022, Rocket Doctor will no longer be accepting appointments to see family doctors, emergency doctors and pediatricians under OHIP.
On this page, we summarize the changes and what they mean for Ontarians. We’ve also provided information on how we can work together to ensure that virtual care continues to be an available option for all Ontarians.
What are the changes?
Last year, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) announced the changes to the Physicians Service Agreement (PSA) that impacts the provision of virtual healthcare in Ontario.
From December 1st 2022, family and emergency doctors seeing a patient without an in-person visit had their fees reduced by 50-65%. Pediatricians will see their fees cut by 75%. As a result, we do not have sufficient hours of family physicians, emergency physicians or pediatricians to continue offering OHIP-funded services in Ontario.
Patients without a family doctor and/or patients who are unable to be seen in person will likely no longer be able to obtain care virtually. Patients requiring an urgent visit are now forced to go to a physical Emergency Department or walk in clinic, waiting hours in line for a visit they may not need.
Our complete service will continue to be available for patients in British Columbia and Alberta, where fee codes have remained in-tact. We will additionally continue to enable specialists across Ontario to see their patients, including our 24/7 substance use services program.
In the midst of incredible strain on our healthcare system, the timing of these changes could not be worse for Ontario, as Emergency Departments are already seeing unprecedented volumes with closures now becoming a regular practice.
A decision based on opinion, not fact.
To support to their decision, the OMA have cited opinions from ‘experts’ in digital health and clinical medicine. These opinions claim that patients need to see a doctor in person as virtual care is not as effective.
But research shows that virtual care is an effective means of healthcare.
A recent study examining the experiences of 22,278 patients at virtual emergency departments in Ontario found that:
- 94% rated their overall experience as highly positive (8/10 or greater)
- Over 80% said they had answers to all the questions they had related to their health concern, believed they were able to manage the issue, had a plan they could follow, and knew what to do if the issue got worse or came back.
This data supports Rocket Doctor’s evidence, that shows that 94% of patients seen virtually on the platform did not need an in-person visit afterward.
Currently 1.8 million Ontarians live without a family doctor. By 2025, this figure is expected to reach 3 million.
According to new research, looming MD retirements, dwindling interest in family medicine and physician burnout are factors which are causing additional problems to Canada’s COVID-19-battered health system.
To date, virtual care has been supporting our healthcare system:
- Providing a means of care for those that don’t have access to a family doctor
- Relieving the pressure of ER staff by treating patients that don’t need to see the doctor in person
- Providing a means of care for patients in remote and underserved communities (including indigenous populations, people with disabilities, and people in rural areas)
- Providing an alternative means of care for people that don’t want to see a doctor in person, for speed and convenience or if they prefer a virtual setting to talk about particular healthcare issues.
According to our research:
- 50% of Rocket Doctor patients used the platform because they do not have a family doctor
- 36% of all patients being seen on Rocket Doctor (approximately 54,000 individuals) are being managed longitudinally by family doctors, entirely virtually.
Virtual care is our best tool to create equitable access to care for all Ontarians.
From December 1st 2022, much of the positive impact that virtual care brings to our healthcare system, will be lost.
What can I do?
Rocket Doctor has been working tirelessly to reverse the decision of the PSA changes. But we need your help.