Virtual health visits are nothing new to B.C., but the COVID-19 pandemic has taken them to a whole new level.

During the pandemic, the number of virtual doctor’s visits by video shot up from 1,500 to 20,000 per week. 

This brings B.C. to a new milestone of more than one million virtual health visits.

In a recent survey conducted by Provincial Health Services Authority and its partners, patients gave virtual visits high praise. 

They felt that virtual visits by video made it easier and faster to access care, allowed the inclusion of family members, and saved them travel time and travel costs.

“The transformation in health care delivery in B.C. is remarkable. Virtual visits have become essential for delivering care to patients to keep them safe and healthy at home during COVID-19,” said health minister Adrian Dix. 

“Beyond the pandemic, virtual visits will continue to be available to B.C. citizens as virtual health evolves in innovative and new ways.”

The authority says that based on a recent analysis, “it is estimated that the one million virtual visits by video have saved patients in B.C. over 800,000 hours of travel time, over 22,000,000 kilometers traveled, and reduced the carbon footprint of our health care system by an estimated 8,000 tons.”

For health care providers, the experience of offering virtual visits was also positive. 

Over 90 per cent of surveyed health care providers felt virtual appointments are an effective way to deliver care during a pandemic, that they could effectively communicate with patients, and that they would continue to use video visits in the future.

“A key to having these virtual visits available to patients and families is the collaboration of leaders across the B.C. health sector who, in the early days of the pandemic, embarked on a provincially coordinated response,” said David Byres, interim president and CEO of PHSA. 

“Their partnership inspired innovative and effective ways to keep providing access to high quality care.”

New measures were put in place to enable virtual primary care in B.C. communities, which included issuing Zoom licences to physicians so they could deliver care virtually, and adjusting telehealth fee codes to allow physicians to bill Medical Services Plan for care services that would otherwise have been delivered in-person.