Survey shows 68 per cent of Canadians avoid seeing a doctor when they're sick because of wait times and other barriers to accessing care.
TORONTO, Jan. 30, 2017 /CNW/ - Sick but don't have time to go to the doctor? Have a sick kid but fear a germ-laden waiting room at a walk-in clinic might make it worse for your family? Turns out you're not alone. A new survey conducted by Ipsos revealed that almost seven in ten Canadians avoid seeing a doctor when they're sick because of long wait times, limited clinic hours and physical barriers to care. In Ontario, almost 50 per cent say they would be interested in online visits with Ontario based doctors, if such a service were available.
To help bridge the gap and propel us into the future of healthcare, Canada's first 24/7 online platform that connects patients to licensed physicians in minutes, has officially launched in Ontario this week. "Maple allows Canadians to see a Canadian-licensed doctor online within minutes: twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, anytime, anywhere," said CEO of Maple and Ontario emergency room physician Dr. Brett Belchetz. "Think of it like the Uber that connects doctors and patients."
While telemedicine, the remote delivery of healthcare using interactive text, audio and video technology, has seen massive adoption in other countries like the U.K. and the United States, the service is only now catching up in Canada. Maple allows patients to connect with doctors about conditions that don't require an in person visit via a secure and private web portal. The types of conditions doctors can treat remotely include: eye and ear infections, cold and flu, urinary tract infections, allergic reactions, skin issues and rashes, vomiting and diarrhea, sexual health issues, mental health concerns, and many more, as well as providing sick notes and prescribing medications online as necessary. "Based on my experience as an emergency room physician, at least half of the cases I see do not require a hands-on physical examination, and there is a tremendous demand for more comfortable and efficient access to care in Canada, so people can feel better, faster," says Dr. Belchetz. "This service will help reduce strain on our healthcare system by moving suitable primary care out of our hospitals and into our communities."
The new service, which will expand across the rest of Canada throughout 2017, was designed with patients in mind: the busy working mother, the executive who travels for work, the patient who is too embarrassed to talk to their family doctor about a private issue, etc. Currently, telemedicine visits are not covered by most provincial health plans, including OHIP. Maple's service is pay per use starting at $49, and the cost varies depending on time of day and time of week, with the option for an annual membership fee providing unlimited doctor consultations. The fees cover the doctor's time for the consultations and are reimbursable by many Health Spending Accounts (HSAs). Doctors on Maple are able to provide prescriptions when needed, which can be delivered same-day to your front door.
"As a busy mom with a business and a family to balance, signing up for Maple was a no-brainer," says patient Jodi Kovitz. "I'm on the go at all times, and don't necessarily have 3-4 hours to take my daughter to the walk-in clinic when she's sick. I signed up for the family membership which gives me complete peace-of-mind. I can go online at any time and get my child the quality care she needs within minutes."
"Maple is a complement to the current system, not a substitute," says Dr. Belchetz. "The majority of the doctors on Maple work full-time in clinics or hospitals and are using Maple in their downtime to help patients. Maple is designed for patients who may not have the time or means to travel to the doctor's office. It's safe, private and makes basic healthcare more accessible for everyone."
Other survey highlights
- Only 25% of Canadians choose to see a doctor as a first response to feeling sick.
- When they don't see a doctor, it turns out the most common first response to feeling sick is to self-medicate: one in three Canadians (36%) buy an over-the-counter remedy at the first signs of illness. Others will seek out more information about their symptoms online, with 15% turning to Google as a first response.
- One in three (36%) Canadians say they use technology to help manage their health, while two in three (64%) do not. Millennials (47%) are the most likely to adopt technological health management aids, while Boomers (26%) are less likely to use tech in this area of their lives.
- Smartphone-based health apps are less commonly used: two in ten Canadians (19%) say they use these apps to help manage their health, while eight in ten (81%) do not.
- With convenience and timeliness being the predominant motivators, among respondents polled, 49% of Ontarians said they would be interested in seeking a medical consult online.
- Women (19%) are nearly twice as likely as men (11%) to Google their symptoms as a first response, as are younger Canadians compared to older ones (31% of those 18-34, vs. 12% of those 35-54 and 7% of those 55 and over). Men, meanwhile, are more likely than women to visit their family doctor (17% vs. 11%) or a walk-in clinic (13% vs 7%) as a first reaction to feeling sick. Canadians aged 55 and over (21%) are the most likely to turn to their family doctor at the first sign of illness, compared to 12% of those 35-54 and 7% of those 18-34.
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For further information: For media inquiries or to arrange an interview with Dr. Brett Belchetz, please contact: Chrissy Roebuck, 416-560-5712, [email protected]