“Doctor Zoom will see you now”: An equity-focused perspective on virtual care in the era of COVID-19

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Evan Tang
Ming K. Li
Eric R. Mauti
Ralph Masi
Robert Goldberg

Keywords

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted populations and healthcare systems worldwide, especially in regions deemed “hotspots.” Social determinants of health have now become even more evident amidst the circumstances imposed by the pandemic, as traditionally underserved and marginalized populations are disproportionately impacted.1,2 In the past decade, virtual care has been proposed as a means of improving access to care for patients and can be administered across various modalities such as telephone, asynchronous messaging (email or text), videoconferencing (e.g. Ontario Telemedicine Network, Zoom), and other secure platforms (e.g. Doxy.me).3 The abrupt shutdowns imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated the transition to virtual care across the world.3 Recently published papers have primarily focused on the global impact of virtual care or nation-specific healthcare systems.4,5 Our commentary offers an equity-focused perspective on the landscape of virtual care during the COVID-19 pandemic with an emphasis on acknowledging and addressing factors unique to the Canadian healthcare system. Specifically, we will discuss benefits of virtual care and explore the challenges imposed by the rapid conversion to virtual care in the context of social and other determinants of health in Ontario.