We’ll continue updating this page with resources and information as new details emerge on how Canadian leaders and businesses are responding to COVID-19.
Telehealth delivers healthcare and medical services to patients through video or phone call appointments across the country. This benefits many Canadians who live remotely or have illnesses or disabilities that prevent them from being able to travel to see a doctor. It also allows doctors to see more patients without having to commute between clinics.
Since the beginning of March, telehealth services have also been used to address the concerns many Canadians have about coronavirus (COVID-19). Many provinces have set up special telehealth lines to make sure citizens can access information about the virus without having to risk exposure by visiting overloaded clinics and hospitals.
Use this guide to find out more about how you can use telehealth services to get access to medical advice and to stay informed during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also scroll down to access a comprehensive list of telehealth services for your province.
Telehealth is a provincial medical service offered to remote patients or those with accessibility issues in Canada. Outside of consultations, this type of technology has been implemented across the country to give patients access to the following:
Monitoring. Allows doctors to monitor vital signs remotely for certain patients, such as a cardiac patient in need of heart monitoring.
Prescriptions. Gives doctors and nurses the ability to write prescriptions remotely, especially for patients who need regular refills on medication.
Information sharing. Allows medical professionals to share vital information and important medical details with their patients and other clinics.
Diagnosis. Provides doctors with visual evidence for diagnosis (such as an ophthalmologist being able to diagnose an eye condition via Skype).
How has telehealth been expanded to deal with the coronavirus pandemic?
The provision of telehealth services is the responsibility of provincial governments, so the way each service has been expanded in response to coronavirus will vary by province. For example, BC and Ontario have invested a significant amount of money into telehealth to deal with the influx of questions and concerns over COVID-19.
This service is available to anyone who wants more information from a licensed medical practitioner about COVID-19. It’s also available to help screen people who may have been infected with the virus. You can access most provincial telehealth services by dialling 811 on your phone.
You may also be able to sign up for a private telehealth service using a mobile app. This will often require you to pay a monthly subscription or a fee for every appointment you book. Some clinicians are also not taking coronavirus-related appointments through these services.
How can I access telehealth services in my province
Most provinces across Canada offer telehealth networks funded by the provincial government. This service can be reached in any province by dialling 811 on your mobile phone (or by calling the toll-free number listed below for each province). Many provinces also have private telehealth services that you can access for a fee.
How it works
Dial 811 to speak to a licensed medical practitioner, with translation services available in over 130 languages.
Visit the online interactive map to find a virtual provider near you.
Telehealth for the Territories
How it works
Call to chat with a registered nurse who can answer your health questions or direct you to the right service.
Yukon Telehealth Network
Speak with the Yukon Telehealth Network coordinator to find out if there’s remote access to appointments near you.
Get free round-the-clock advice and access to information from registered nurses.
Nunavut Help Line
Call in for anonymous and confidential telephone counselling.
How can I access telehealth services?
You can access telehealth services by calling in to speak to a doctor or by booking an appointment with a private provider. Provincial telehealth lines (usually accessed by dialling 811 on your mobile phone) are mostly reserved for patients that want generic advice on a wide array of health issues. You can’t typically get a diagnosis through these services, and you won’t be able to get prescriptions refilled or medical problems looked at.
Many private health care providers also work online and offer mobile apps that you can download to book an appointment with your doctor. You won’t go into an office for your scheduled visit, but your doctor will typically call or videoconference you so that you can get the medical help you need from the comfort of your own home.
What specialists use telehealth?
There are a number of different specialists that can use telehealth services to exchange information and provide specialist services to remote clients. Some examples of how telehealth services are used are outlined below:
Telemedicine. Live video conferencing lets doctors and nurses speak to and diagnose patients who can’t make it into a clinic location.
Teleradiology. Doctors can send X-rays to a radiologist in another location to get specialist feedback on a patient’s condition.
Telepsychiatry. Telepsychiatry lets psychiatrists treat patients remotely, helping to increase public access to mental health services.
Teledermatology. Doctors can send pictures of patients’ skin conditions for remote examination by a skin specialist.
Teleophthalmology. Ophthalmologists can remotely examine a patient’s eyes to diagnose eye problems.
Teleobstetrics. Teleobstetrics enables an obstetrician to be able to provide remote prenatal care.
Telerehabilitation. Allows medical professionals to provide rehab services remotely (i.e. physical therapy).
What does the future hold for telehealth?
Telehealth is an emerging field in Canada and can be used to help patients across Canada get access to health services quickly and easily. This is particularly useful for patients that live far from clinics or have mobility issues. That said, this type of service comes with certain limitations and isn’t suitable for situations where in-person consultations or treatments are needed.
Telehealth options will also likely expand in response to the need for social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak. Many provinces and the federal government are investing more money and time into figuring out how this technology can help Canadians deal with this pandemic. This will surely have implications on how and when telehealth can be leveraged for future diagnosis and treatment of illnesses and disease in Canada.
Download the COVID Alert app
On July 31, 2020, the federal government released the COVID Alert app (for Android and iOS) to help track and prevent the spread of coronavirus. This non-mandatory app lets users report if they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and anonymously notifies people nearby that they may have been exposed. Currently, only residents of Ontario can use the app to report their test results, but soon this functionality will be extended across Canada (the exact date has not yet been announced).
You can call most provincial telehealth networks by dialling 811 on your mobile phone. You’ll also be able to download private healthcare apps to book appointments with a licensed doctor. You may need to pay a fee for this service, though some of these services are offered for free when you use your provincial health care card in certain provinces.
Claire Horwood is a writer at Finder, specializing in credit cards, loans and other financial products. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Gender Studies from the University of Victoria, along with an Associate's Degree in Science from Camosun College. Much of Claire's coursework has focused on writing and statistics, with a healthy dose of social and cultural analysis mixed in for good measure. She has also worked extensively in the field of "Blended Finance" with the Canadian government. In her spare time, Claire loves rock climbing, travelling and drinking inordinate amounts of coffee.
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