‘More virtual services means better health outcomes, better access to services, and a more sustainable health care system’
The federal government is investing $6.5 million under a bilateral agreement with Saskatchewan to help the province expand virtual health care services for its residents.
“Now more than ever, Canadians need access to virtual health care services to support their health,” said Patty Hajdu, Canada’s minister of health. “We are working with provinces and territories to support the rapid deployment of such services for Canadians, to ensure they can access the care they need, whenever they need it. Today’s investment will support Saskatchewan in their expansion of virtual health care services, ensuring Saskatchewanians have health services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Under the agreement, the province will invest federal funding based on agreed-upon pan-Canadian priorities for accelerating virtual health care services during the pandemic. The province will be developing an action plan that outlines how they will invest their share of federal funding to improve access to virtual health care.
“At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saskatchewan moved quickly to provide patients with access to safe and secure virtual doctor’s appointments using telephone and video conferencing services. Between March 2020 and December 2020, Saskatchewan patients had more than 1.7 million virtual appointments with a physician,” said Paul Merriman, Saskatchewan’s minister of health.
“This funding will help Saskatchewan’s existing virtual care initiatives, support the delivery of safe and effective care closer to home, and improve communication between providers and patients.”
The federal government also had a similar arrangement with Yukon, announced in March.
On May 3, 2020, the Prime Minister announced an investment of $240.5 million to increase access to virtual services and digital tools to support Canadians’ health and wellbeing. From that funding, $150 million will be provided to provinces and territories through targeted bilateral agreements aimed at expanding virtual health services.
The virtual health investment will focus on the following:
- secure messaging and file transfer
- secure video conferencing
- remote patient monitoring technologies
- patient access to their COVID-19 and other lab results
- back-end supports for integration and/or alignment of these new platforms or existing tools
“This is an important step to provide Saskatchewan residents with access to more virtual health care services,” said Jim Carr, special representative for the Prairies. “Saskatchewanians can use virtual tools to continue to access the health services they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. More virtual services means better health outcomes, better access to services, and a more sustainable health care system.”
The new funding is also in addition to the $50 million in incremental federal funding allocated to Canada Health Infoway to further support provincial and territorial efforts to rapidly implement new initiatives in keeping with the five priority areas.
Physicians in Canada generally opted to offer virtual care services options instead of in-person care amid the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.