Houston: It’s time to make virtual healthcare permanent

Virtual care is a no-brainer tool. The COVID-19 lockdown demonstrated that virtual medicine is a viable means of healthcare delivery. Today, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston is calling on the McNeil Liberals to permanently embrace the obvious technological advances in healthcare delivery and make necessary changes to the doctor fee codes that commit to, and expand, virtual care.


“For the past few months, many doctors and patients were part of perhaps our province’s greatest pilot run of virtual care,” says Houston. “COVID-19 forced the government to begrudgingly embrace telehealth advances that the rest of the world has enjoyed for years.  Now it has been proven once and for all that the status quo is no longer acceptable or necessary in Nova Scotia.”


At the PC Annual General Meeting in February, Houston highlighted ways in which expanding healthcare from home could support and improve our current system, and cited its success in other jurisdictions. The Premier, despite governing the rapid deterioration of our healthcare system, has always appeared skeptical of modern technological advances. 


During Question Period on March 3, 2020, Premier McNeil mocked the notion of virtual care when retorting to Houston: “Oh, I forgot, Mr. Speaker, at the annual meeting he thought the best way to deliver primary care was for all of us to sit in our living rooms and call a doctor.”


Fast forward just three months, and the Premier’s dismissal has proven to be out of touch.


Upon seeing the success of virtual care in their province, the Alberta government has recently made it’s temporary virtual care billing codes permanent, while Ontario has set no end date on temporary virtual care. Houston expects many more provinces to allow virtual care to continue as well. He is hoping that the McNeil Liberals will see the value in this opportunity. 


Virtual care codes in Nova Scotia are set to expire at the end of June.


“Why go backwards? The future of healthcare is obvious,” says Houston. “While many patients will continue to need in-person doctor visits, virtual care can offer a new means of seeing a doctor for many Nova Scotian. By finally embracing technology, we can reduce wait times across the province.”