Friends, this one's a longer, but, important read!
Bottom line: publicly-funded virtual Dermatology care is a cost-effective, common-sense solution to the inequitable and inaccessible state of Canadian Dermatology, and its funding may be removed by the Ontario government in October 2021.
True Accessibility Means Affordability
Receiving care by a Dermatologist is a publicly insured service in Canada. This means that you should not have to pay out-of-pocket to see a Dermatologist. While there are increasing numbers of medical entities offering private-pay dermatology services, DermCafé is committed to upholding the spirit of our cherished universal healthcare.
Canada has a Dermatology Accessibility Crisis
As of 2018, there were only 623 Dermatologists for the entire 37 million Canadian population. With wait times stretching beyond one year in certain urban areas, the majority of Canadian towns have zero access to a Dermatologist. Despite dermatology care being publicly funded, the majority of Canadians have no access to this service. Without access, what does universal healthcare even mean?
Access is Unequal Across Different Communities
Beyond overall inaccessibility, access is gravely unequal between different populations. Most Dermatologists are clustered in urban areas, while the majority of rural areas have absolutely no access to a Dermatologist. This disparity unfairly widens the gap in care between urban and marginalized populations.
Dermatology is a visual specialty. That means that many skin diagnoses can be made simply with visual inspection. This makes virtual methods (via phone/video call with photos) uniquely suited to delivering dermatology care for certain skin concerns, while saving resources for other patients who require in-person care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency measures were enacted to allow the provision of medical care via virtual means. While most other developed nations (e.g. U.S., the UK, Europe, China) had already been providing virtual medicine for years prior to COVID-19, the pandemic allowed Canada to catch up with the modern world. Beyond continuing dermatology care during a global pandemic, virtual medicine has allowed DermCafé to provide dermatology care to thousands of patients in over 250 towns, the majority of whom had never received accessible care, whether during the era of COVID-19 or not.
The Benefits of Virtual Care
Equal & improved access
Reduced wait times
Reduced time off work
Reduced travel time & related costs
Timely care resulting in reduced costs to the healthcare system
Despite the fact that virtual care is a cost-effective, common-sense solution to countless healthcare challenges, the Ontario government may remove funding for virtual care after September 2021. This would mean that patients would no longer be able to access dermatology care via a phone/video call with their Dermatologist, and would reimplement geographic barriers to care, effectively reverting progress and innovation.