LAST YEAR, COVID-19 forced much of our lives online: work meetings migrated to Zoom, quarantines replaced in-person happy hours. Medicine was no exception. In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, governments worldwide instructed their citizens to stay home when possible and avoid non-essential outings, including trips to hospitals and doctors’ offices. So, patients swapped in-person appointments for phone calls and video chats. Google searches for telehealth spiked. Before the pandemic, just one in 10 Canadians had used telehealth; by last May, half of them had.
To meet the increasing demand, North American and European governments, hospitals and private businesses have invested billions of dollars in new and existing virtual care services. The Canadian federal government, for one, earmarked $13.4 million for a trio of telehealth companies and a digital health “innovation hub,” while Loblaw Companies Ltd. invested $75 million in Maple, an app that facilitates online doctor consultations. As a result, hundreds of Shoppers Drug Mart stores are now outfitted with iPads that provide customers a direct link to Maple physicians.
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