Changes to virtual care billing in Ontario raise concerns over health care access

From The Globe and Mail Article

Some Ontario physicians are concerned pending changes to virtual care will make it difficult for a wide swath of patients to access a health provider, adding tocontinuing challenges facing the province’s health system.

The province is restricting payment for telephone-based doctor visits later this year and requiring physicians to be able to see patients in person if necessary, which would make it impossible for virtual-only clinics to operate.

There have been growing concerns throughout the pandemic that some doctors are leaning too heavily on virtual care and refusing to see patients in person or using virtual clinics to see patients on a one-off basis, which is linked to poorer health outcomes. The changes are, in part, designed to encourage face-to-face interaction and reduce the frequency of one-off calls with patients.

As of Dec. 1, Ontario’s health insurance plan will no longer fund initial telephone visits between new patients and their physician. Only video calls will be eligible for payment under the new permanent virtual care funding model.

Follow-up phone calls between patients and doctors will only be eligible for 85 per cent of the fee doctors can bill for video calls or in-person visits.

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