What to Know Before Seeing a Doctor Online

Virtual care is the easiest and fastest way to see a doctor for non-urgent concerns. Here’s what to know before your first online visit.

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Thanks to modern technology, things like finding a date and ordering groceries can be done with a simple swipe or click of a button. Isn’t it time our health care caught up? With virtual care, it’s possible to speak to a licensed doctor from the convenience of your home, and it’s faster, too. Founded in 2015, Maple is a virtual care platform that connects Canadians with general practitioners (GPs) 24/7 via phone, computer, or tablet. Maple’s team of doctors are all Canadian licensed and practice family or emergency medicine.

Also known as telemedicine, virtual care is supported by the Canadian Medical Association, with some provinces covering the service under their health plans. It’s a service that has been slowly growing in popularity—until now. Since COVID-19 hit, virtual care has exploded as a fast and convenient way to access a healthcare professional. Here’s what you need to know about seeing a doctor online.

How does it work?

It’s fairly simple. Take Maple for example, once you create an account, you click the “See doctor” button. From there you can select the type of healthcare provider you want to see, check off your symptoms from a list or enter a description of your medical request. The Maple app will use your location to match you with a licensed physician or provider who can help with your concern.

Online doctors work just like in-person doctors, but the process is faster and more convenient. Plus, Maple operates around the clock, meaning that you don’t need to head to emerge for non-urgent concerns outside of office hours or on holidays. That can mean a huge time savings for you.

How long will it take to see a doctor online?

With Maple, you’ll hear from the doctor within a few minutes. That’s a huge improvement considering Canadians usually have to wait at least a day or more to see their family doctor in person. In fact, 1 in 7 Canadians report waiting more than a week to see their family doctor in some cases.

It’s important to note that each virtual care system is set up a bit differently, so no matter what platform you’re using be sure to look at the process for connecting with a doctor before submitting your request. In some cases, you may need to book an appointment hours or days in advance. Others may ask you to talk to a nurse or care coordinator before they book your doctor’s visit.

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What can a doctor safely treat online?

Up to 70 percent of non-urgent conditions can be treated online. That includes everything from UTIs and STIs to prescription refills and chronic conditions like high blood pressure and IBD. Your doctor will be able to write you a prescription, give you a sick note and order lab tests, if required.

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What if I need to see the doctor multiple times?

Some of us are lucky enough to have the same doctor for long periods of time. Others aren’t so lucky. To ensure the healthcare provider you see has an understanding of your health history, you can upload your health records in your Maple account. The system will keep adding to them with each appointment. This gives you what’s called “informational continuity of care” and ensures that each doctor you speak with has access to your health history. If you need to speak with a specialist such as a dermatologist, pediatrician or psychiatrist, for example, each health care provider will be able to review your health records and it saves you from having to explain your complete health history at each appointment.

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Is my information safe?

Naturally, this is a big concern for Canadians. Nothing is more private than your personal health information (PHI) and so it’s heavily regulated. When looking at virtual care providers, ensure the company has clearly written terms and conditions and a publicly available privacy policy. In those documents, look for confirmation that the company won’t sell your PHI to third parties. As well, make sure you—not the virtual care company—maintains ownership of your health information.

If you are looking to skip the waiting room, look into virtual care with Maple. They are here to support you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

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