New standard of practice for virtual medicine


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Doctors who have only seen patients by phone or in a zoom meeting through the COVID-19 pandemic will now have to mix in in-person visits.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/10/2021 (529 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Doctors who have only seen patients by phone or in a zoom meeting through the COVID-19 pandemic will now have to mix in in-person visits.

The College and Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba has updated its standard of practice for virtual medicine. It now says, 20 months into the pandemic, “practicing solely virtual medicine is not an acceptable standard of care.”

The new standard takes effect Nov. 1.

Dr. Ainslie Mihalchuk, assistant registrar, said good medical care includes seeing a patient in person when it is clinically necessary or is asked for by the patient.

“In-person care should be the standard, with virtual medicine complementing in-person visits,” Mihalchuk said Tuesday.

“When the pandemic first began, many physicians shifted to virtual medicine practically overnight. Virtual medicine is beneficial for many reasons, but it has also highlighted the importance of in-person care.”

The college says it has been advised by many specialists that family doctors were referring patients they had not seen in person. One ear, nose and throat specialist complained they had seen several patients for earaches, but if the family doctor hadn’t relied solely on virtual medicine and had looked in the patient’s ears, they could have treated the condition themselves.

Mihalchuk said the shortage of personal protective equipment at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which sparked a lot of the need for virtual medicine, whether by telephone, video, email or text, is no longer an issue, while the current provincial vaccination rate of 82.5 per cent also makes it safe to begin more in-person care.

The public does want to see some virtual medicine continue in the post-pandemic future, Mihalchuk added.

“This summer, we asked the public to share their experience with virtual medicine through an online survey as part of the public consultation for the standard (of care)” she said.

“The feedback we received from the public indicated that a majority had good experiences and wanted virtual medicine to continue after the pandemic.”

Mihalchuk said patents can ask for in-person care, and get seen “in a timely manner.”

She said there are some exceptions, including doctors treating people in distant rural and remote communities, in Manitoba CancerCare, and some specialist referrals.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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