Access to virtual healthcare has jumped over the last 14 months due to COVID-19 restrictions, but it’s a system many people want to have maintained in the future. 

According to a new Heart & Stroke online survey of more than 3,000 people living with stroke, heart disease or vascular cognitive impairment and caregivers, more than half want the option for virtual appointments in the future, beyond COVID-19 – an increase from a similar survey carried out a year ago. 

While virtual appointments were most often the only option offered during the pandemic, the number of people who participated in virtual appointments increased during the past year from about five in 10 people at the beginning of the pandemic to about eight in 10 in the spring of 2021. 

Virtual healthcare can provide quality care 

“As we plan for a post-pandemic future and public health measures begin to lift, virtual healthcare will remain an effective and efficient tool for patients, providers and the healthcare system,” says Dr. Patrice Lindsay, director, Health Systems Change, Heart & Stroke. “Virtual care is meant to complement, not replace, in-person visits. But virtual healthcare has enormous potential to provide quality care for people living with stroke or heart conditions as well as reduce the burden on the healthcare system from prevention to acute care, disease management, rehabilitation and end-of-life care.” 

Research has shown that a virtual healthcare diagnosis can be up to 91% accurate across a wide range of conditions. Appointments can be booked quickly, it is easier for people with mobility issues, fewer childcare issues and other costs such as transportation and parking. 

Virtual healthcare opens up new options 

It has also opened up new options for accessing healthcare for those in underserved communities. 

“In remote and northern regions, including Indigenous communities, the growth of virtual care has the potential to redress health inequities by helping people connect to a range of health services without leaving their communities,” said Dr. Inderveer Mahal, a Vancouver-based family doctor.