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Virtual care during COVID-19: Information for patients

During this time where physical distancing is necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19, some Sunnybrook health-care providers may offer care virtually by telephone or video.

What is virtual care?

Virtual care allows you to speak with your health-care team using a telephone, smartphone or your computer. You do not need to come into the hospital.

Sunnybrook and other teams across the province have been using virtual care through the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) for many years. At this time, virtual care options may also include other videoconferencing technology such as Zoom.

Your health-care provider will discuss with you which virtual care option may be available to you. Please note that videoconferencing requires a stable internet connection and a smartphone or computer with a camera and a microphone.

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.

How do I book a virtual care visit?

Your care team may call you to discuss changing your upcoming appointment to a virtual care visit. 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:

  • 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.
  • Have your full medication list (or bottles) and pharmacy information (address, phone, and fax number) ready.
  • If possible, find a private, quiet, well-lit, and spacious area for your visit.
  • 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.

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.