Progressive Conservative Health critic Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin says Nova Scotia doctors should be allowed to use and bill for modern technology services to help alleviate wait list pressures across the province.
Currently, there are numerous bureaucratic obstacles to a family doctor using the telephone or video conference to address a patient’s needs, further eroding their ability to access and use it practically. These modern technologies are considered to be more efficient and affordable than traditional face-to-face visits and can be used to effectively treat or follow up with patients.
More patients would be treated, and sooner, if Nova Scotia doctors were adequately supported in using modern technologies, like telephone, video conferencing and e-health tools like MyHealthNS,” says Smith-McCrossin. “The McNeil government’s neglect of the family doctor crisis is causing patients to unnecessarily suffer. These common-sense changes could help make a big difference.”
Dr. Ajantha Jayabarathan knows first-hand the impact e-health tools can have on improving patient care.
“My practice fully integrated e-health services and saw a 22 per cent increase in capacity of care but I took an 18 per cent pay decrease and had to provide the services without compensation,” says Dr. Jayabarathan. “More than half of our patients embraced the electronic access to care, and the improvement in quality of their care, follow-up and access to all their medical records were celebrated outcomes.”
Despite strong evidence that it will improve a doctor’s patient capacity, uptake by practicing family doctors has dwindled because doctors simply cannot incorporate this within their practice because of the way government has set it up.
However, last week it was reported that pay-for-access online doctor services were moving into Nova Scotia. The private Ontario company, staffed by doctors from away, can use modern e-tools like video conference to talk with patients, diagnose minor ailments and accept payment from people. The Nova Scotia healthcare system is in crisis and is at a crossroads.
Smith-McCrossin says she understands why people are seeking care this way but believes the McNeil government should free up Nova Scotian family doctors to use these tools for primary care, rather than creating a system where those with money have greater access to healthcare.
“The family doctor crisis in Nova Scotia is forcing those who have the money to go outside the public healthcare system to get their healthcare needs met,” says Smith-McCrossin. “Instead, we should be paying our own doctors for using e-health services so everyone has equal access and doctors are compensated fairly.”