If you’re thinking of taking your practice digital, there’s never been a better time: although many of the changes in telemedicine have been due to COVID-19, the results are here to stay. With more and more patients and situations demanding a mix of virtual and in-person care, there are many options available for online doctors in Canada – and this is great news for physicians.
According to some virtual health providers, the average doctor in Canada bills for less than half of the hours that they actually work over the course of a lifetime, owing to the administrative and operational burdens of commuting, record-keeping and other non-medical tasks. By taking some or all of their practice online, doctors in Canada can take advantage of a reduced physician workload, spend more time with patients, and have more flexibility for themselves. Here are some top tips for working in Ontario, Alberta, and BC.
Online Doctor Jobs in BC
Changes in restrictions around doctors practicing virtual medicine, new telemedicine billing codes, and patients who are increasingly interested in online care means BC online doctor jobs are plentiful. Like in any province, there are a few ways to get started – you could take a job working on an online provider, work for an employer owned practice seeking a full-time or part time BC online doctor, move your own practice fully or partially virtual, take on a virtual locum role, or take virtual patients in addition to your regularly scheduled visits.
Which of these options you pursue will depend heavily on what kind of lifestyle you’re seeking. While having a fully online practice is tempting, the CMA guidelines on conducting virtual visits still apply to BC online doctors – this means some visits, like those requiring physical examination – will need to be scheduled as an in-person appointment.
Family medicine specialists or other doctors where a mix of online and in-person visits are unavoidable should make plans to leave a clinic open or refer online patients to an in-person physician. However, some specializations – like psychiatry – could easily be moved to 100% online, so keep these things in mind when looking at job postings. If a family medicine posting says it is 100% virtual, make sure to ask questions about the patients who require access to in-person care. Will they be handled by other doctors in the clinic? Is there an option to take patients in-person yourself? Getting a handle on these kinds of questions beforehand will help you to know how much flexibility you will have.
For online doctors in BC, recent updates to billing protocols have made it so you can now bill for telephone visits (as previously, visits made virtually had to involve a video component), although online doctors in BC are limited as to the number of email/text/telephone messages they can take from patients (up to 200 per year). This means even more flexibility for online doctors to work with. BC physicians working online can choose from a multitude of different options and roles – and with some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, there’s never been a better time to work remote!
Online Doctor Jobs in Alberta
Like BC, Alberta online doctors can take their pick of many online options for healthcare – whether it’s working out of a physician owned practice, taking a new job with an employer, working as a locum, or striking out on your own, there are plenty of options on the (virtual) table.
The Alberta Medical Association has a startup guide for Alberta online doctors looking to move their practice online – and Alberta has historically been one of the first provinces to do so. Like online doctors in BC, Alberta online doctors are also limited in how many patients they may communicate with electronically in the span of a week; however, there are no limits to the number of virtual consultations that an Alberta physician can see. Alberta online doctors are free to see as many (or as few) patients as they like, with the option open to take their practice fully, partially, or occasionally virtual.
Since many options for virtual healthcare can exist without borders, Alberta online doctors looking for employment will have many of the same options as BC online doctors – they could check out sites like Maple, look for remote job openings on sites like Indeed, look for virtual locum roles on sites like Locumunity, or check the Alberta Health Services job board. Physicians looking to take things online in their own practice should check out the Alberta Medical Association’s guidelines for Alberta online doctors.
Online Doctor Jobs in Ontario
Thanks to Ontario’s comparatively larger population size, as well as their historically more flexible rules on online doctors, Ontario physicians who want to operate online have plenty of options to choose from. In fact, the Ontario Telemedicine Network reported more than one million video visits in 2018-2019. This is still small compared to the total volume of medical services that doctors in Ontario provide, however, the online doctor’s role in the provision of medical services has continued to increase since the pandemic began, and is likely here to stay.
Like in other provinces, online doctors in Ontario can choose to take on a new role in a telemedicine job, work as a locum, or integrate online doctor services as part of their regular practice. However, unlike BC or Alberta online doctors, Ontario physicians often have the option to be the first in line to be part of new services offered by private health insurers – like the Quebec-owned Dialogue.co, which was offered through Great-West Life in Ontario and Quebec. Now additional insurers, including Sun Life, are making provisions for virtual health care services offered through employer health coverages.
This is a big step for online doctors – Ontario physicians can now bill for services under employer health care programs that they could otherwise not bill to the provincial regulatory body. Examples of these services include the online doctor visits offered by services like Maple, Tia, Appletree Medical Group or Cover Health – Maple and Tia are Canada-wide, however, Appletree and Cover Health are offered exclusively to Ontarians, which makes for a broader spectrum of online jobs for Ontario physicians.
If you’re interested in a more permanent role, online doctors in Ontario can seek out positions through the same channels as Alberta and BC online doctors – community job websites such as Indeed, Locumunity, and the postings on the Ontario Telemedicine Network website or the Ontario Medical Association’s classifieds are all great places to start when looking for work as a virtual physician. Like other provinces, physicians operating out of their own practices have the option to extend their services to cover virtual care, either on a part time or full time basis. Like in BC and Alberta, online doctors in Ontario should keep in mind some visits are better done in person, and have policies in place to serve patients who require them. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has some more information for online doctors practicing in the province.
Thanks to the recent pandemic, online doctors in Canada now have access to unparalleled options to provide virtual care – options that will continue long after the current pandemic is over. With patients eager to take advantage of these new options, changes in legislation making online doctor jobs easier to manage, and new billing codes for physicians to take advantage of increasingly flexible job opportunities, the landscape for medical practice in Canada has never looked more virtual. Happy job hunting!