The coronavirus has doctors on both sides of the border phoning it in.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced Saturday that patients can now use video and phone services to consult with doctors, an isolation-friendly measure the agency has been reluctant to implement in the past.
“If this becomes a widespread community outbreak, we’re going to think twice about the patient who has a cough or other symptoms,” Dr. Keith Thompson, who practises in London, Ont., told CTV News. “Do we want them coming to the office? No. We want to limit that exposure,” Dr. Thompson said.
The doctor said he uses the Ontario Telemedicine Network, a government effort initiated in 2006, to provide patients with expert medical advice over Skype or Facetime without forcing them to risk exposure to COVID-19 by venturing out of the relatively safe confines of their homes. The service helps doctors ease the burden on the country’s health care system by re-filling prescriptions and offering treatment without adding to the chaos that is expected to visit hospitals in the coming weeks.
Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees prescribed the service for his state on Monday, waiving requirements for in-person consultations and allowing physicians to refill prescriptions for cannabis and other controlled substances as Floridians try to ride out the coronavirus.
“For purposes of preparing for, responding to and mitigating any effect of COVID-19, qualified physicians under section 381.986, Florida Statutes, may issue a physician certification only for an existing qualified patient with an existing certification that was issued by that qualified physician without the need to conduct a physical examination while physically present in the same room as the patient,” the emergency order noted.
Other Canadian provinces are expected to follow Ontario’s lead as coronavirus gains a foothold in the country, said Dr. Brett Belchetz, an emergency room doctor and the co-founder and CEO of Maple, a company that offers virtual care services.
“I think sometimes it does take an urgency or a crisis for us to look at technologies that are out there and realize how critical they are and actually start making proper use of them,” Dr. Belchetz said.