TORONTO, Aug. 17, 2023 — Ontario’s doctors are now seeing the vast majority of patients in person rather than virtually while also trying to catch up on the pandemic backlog of care.
A new analysis of OHIP data released by the Ontario Medical Association today shows that 87 per cent of all physician visits in Ontario are happening face-to-face, a substantial increase from 40 per cent at the height of the pandemic.
The number of in-person visits has been steadily increasing since the height of the pandemic when most non-emergency health-care services were shut down to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
“Both virtual and in-person care have a role to play in health-care delivery,” said OMA President Dr. Andrew Park. “Ontario’s doctors are committed to providing the best care possible to our patients, in the most appropriate setting.”
Of the 13 per cent of care being provided virtually, most is being done by phone.
Family physicians are seeing 85 per cent of patients in person, up from 42 per cent in April 2020. This surpasses the aspirational target in the current Physician Services Agreement between the province and the OMA of 60 per cent in-person care.
“Family physicians are the bedrock of health care delivery for Ontarians said Dr. David Barber, chair of the OMA’s Section on General and Family Practice. “While in-person clinic visits comprise the majority of patient care the past two years, family physicians are committed to advocating for virtual care for geographically isolated or vulnerable populations. Family physicians will continue to work tirelessly to provide care for Ontarians.“
Research shows that virtual care is particularly well-suited for mental health consultations, refilling prescriptions and discussing lab and other test results. When delivered in the appropriate clinical context, virtual care can be just as effective as in-person care.
Specialists visits have also returned to mostly in-person visits with 88 per cent being conducted face-to-face, compared to 41 per cent during the pandemic's peak.
“While virtual care is a pandemic success story, many deep cracks in the health-care system remain,” said Dr. Park. “Doctors, government and other stakeholders must all come together to address them, starting with getting everyone in Ontario a family doctor.”
The OMA’s Prescription Progress Report 2023 identifies three priority areas for immediate attention: fixing the crisis in primary care, alleviating the crushing administrative burden — one of the leading causes of physician burnout — and addressing the lack of access to co-ordinated community-based care.
The Ontario Medical Association represents Ontario’s 43,000-plus physicians, medical students and retired physicians, advocating for and supporting doctors while strengthening the leadership role of doctors in caring for patients. Our vision is to be the trusted voice in transforming Ontario’s health-care system.
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