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Virtual care: Information for patients

Virtual care (also known as telemedicine) allows you to visit with your health-care team using a telephone, smartphone or computer. These visits may be done from your home, or by visiting an Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) studio, depending on your needs.

What virtual care option is right for me?

Your health-care provider will discuss with you which virtual care option may be available to you. Some options (such as Zoom) can be done in the comfort of your own home with a stable internet connection and a smartphone or computer with a camera and a microphone.

In some cases, you may need to visit an Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) studio in your community. These studios are often staffed with nursing support and technology that allow for medical examinations and treatments for patients in urban, rural and remote communities throughout Ontario. An OTN virtual visit might be an option for you if:

  • Your consultation requires clinical or nursing support, such as checking vitals. Specialized devices such as high-resolution hand-held cameras are available to be used for close-up images, for example skin lesions, burns, joint, and gait assessments.
  • You are an in-patient in another hospital
  • You do not have reliable internet access nor computer technology (e.g. no video)
  • You are not comfortable using your own computer technology

What happens during a virtual care visit?

During a virtual care visit, your health-care provider may discuss with you your current health status, monitor your progress according to your care plan and answer any questions you may have regarding your condition. If your health-care provider feels that an in-person visit is needed, they will discuss your options and next steps with you.

If you are visiting an Ontario Telemedicine Network studio:

  1. Once you are checked into the telemedicine studio, the local telemedicine coordinator (usually a nurse), will explain the process and the equipment to you. The coordinator or nurse will stay in the room with you throughout your appointment, if required.
  2. Depending on the needs of your appointment, you may be asked to change into a hospital gown.
  3. During your appointment, the coordinator in the room with you may be asked to use electronic diagnostic equipment such as patient exam cameras and digital stethoscopes so that your health-care provider can assess you.

How do I book a virtual care visit?

Discuss with your care team if a virtual care visit is right for you. They will speak with you about the options available to you for virtual care. This may be through a telephone call, or a video call using systems such as OTN or Zoom. The service used will depend on your care needs and the technology you and the clinic are able to access.

During this call, your health-care provider will ask for your verbal consent to participate in virtual care and request an e-mail address so they can send you details about your virtual appointment.

How do I prepare for a virtual care visit?

Your clinic or health-care professional may ask you to prepare specific information before your visit, but here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Have your full medication list (or bottles), pharmacy information (address, phone, and fax number), questions and any forms requested by your health-care provider ready.
  • Be sure your caregiver or family members are aware of the appointment date if they are needed to assist.
  • Have glasses, hearing aids, or walking aids nearby.
  • Be prepared to show any wounds or rashes.
  • Have a pen and paper ready.

If the visit is at home: 

  • Be available 15 minutes before and 30 minutes after the scheduled appointment time – please keep your video visit open as the doctor may be running late.
  • Please answer any calls from unknown or blocked phone numbers.
  • If possible, find a private, quiet, well-lit, and spacious area for your visit.

If the visit is to take place in an OTN studio:

  • Please arrive at least 30 minutes before your visit so you can be registered and get settled in the studio

Read more tips and view a checklist for a successful virtual care appointment »

Is virtual care safe and private? 

Your privacy is very important to us. Similar to any in-person visit, we do our best to make sure that any information you give to us during a virtual care visit is private and secure.

Electronic communication, including virtual care visits and e-mail, may have an increased risk that your health information be intercepted by third parties through malware, phishing scams or other unauthorized access.

To help us keep your information safe, we request that you do the following:

  • Use your personal computer or device.
  • Use a secure internet connection at home. Do not use an internet connection in a public area, such as an airport, store, restaurant or library.
  • Use your personal e-mail, not a work e-mail address.
  • If you receive an e-mail and are not sure if it is coming from your health-care team at Sunnybrook, please call them to confirm before clicking on any links.

By agreeing to participate in virtual care, you are agreeing to let your health-care provider collect, use, or disclose your personal health information through video or audio communications (while following applicable privacy laws) in order to provide you with care. Electronic (or virtual) communication may include e-mail, videoconferencing (Zoom, OTN, Skype, etc.), text messaging or a website.

If you have any concerns about your privacy, please contact the Sunnybrook Privacy Office at 416-480-6100 ext. 1236 or privacy@sunnybrook.ca

Can I decline virtual care?

You can decline or withdraw your consent for virtual care at any time by contacting your health-care provider. Please understand that this may lead to delays in your care during the current pandemic. To help protect our patients, staff and the community, only urgent in-person appointments are being offered in the hospital at this time.

What do I do if I have more questions?

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your clinic or health-care provider.