Virtual Care for Patients

Information for Patient for Virtual Care

COVID-19 is impacting Canada’s healthcare system. In order to protect patients and health care providers from the virus, more health care options are being offered to help limit the number of people who need to be seen in-person. Many clinics at North York General Hospital (NYGH) now offer telephone and virtual appointments to care for patients safety. NYGH has video and audio technologies for most patient visits, which avoids patients needing to come in-person. In some cases, your health care team may ask you to visit a hospital or other health care facility if necessary, for a physical examination.

What is a virtual visit?

During a virtual visit you do not come to the hospital to meet in person. You speak with your care team using a regular telephone, smartphone or your computer.

What happens during a virtual visit?

Your healthcare team talks to you about your current health status, any symptoms you are experiencing and your needs. If your care team feels that an in-person visit is needed they will discuss options and next steps with you.

How will my virtual visit be booked?

Your healthcare team may call you to discuss changing your upcoming appointment to a virtual visit. The decision on which type of virtual visit you have will be made based on your care needs and the technology you and the clinic have access to.

Before setting up a virtual visit your healthcare team will:

  • Talk to you about options for virtual care. This may include offering a regular telephone call or a video call using Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) or a system called Microsoft Teams.
  • Ask for your verbal consent for the upcoming appointment.
  • Provide you with the date and time of your virtual visit and confirm your preferred contact information.
  •  Provide you with instructions on how to prepare for your virtual visit.


What can I expect during my virtual visit?

Telephone visit

  • Your healthcare provider will call you on the phone at the scheduled time.
  • You and your healthcare provider will talk about how you’re feeling, discuss your questions and next steps in your care plan.

Video (audiovisual) visit using Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) or Microsoft Teams

NYGH uses a secure video conferencing tool provided by OTN for video calls. OTN is funded and fully supported by the Government of Ontario to enable people to receive care at home.

Microsoft Teams is another virtual tool being used at NYGH, which provides security measures to protect personal health information.

  • Your healthcare provider will connect you via OTN or Microsoft Teams at the scheduled time.
  • You and your healthcare provider will be able to see each other while you talk about how you’re feeling, discuss your questions and next steps in your care plan.

It is important to understand that virtual care is not a substitute for in-person communication, a clinical examination or for urgent/emergency care.


How do I use OTN or Microsoft Teams?

  • At the schedule time and date of your virtual appointment your healthcare provider calls you on your smartphone or computer using the OTN or Microsoft Teams video system.
  • If you have trouble with the video system, your healthcare provider will call you on telephone instead.

How do I access MS Teams?

Providing consent

NYGH may send you appointment information and other general information by email or text, if you have consented to receive information in this way.

By providing your information, you agree to let us collect, use, or disclose your personal health information through video or audio communications (while following privacy laws) in order to provide you with care.

The following electronic communication may be used: email, telephone, and/or videoconferencing (including Ontario Telemedicine Network, and/or Microsoft Teams)

Please do not send emails for urgent symptoms, questions or in an emergency. If you have an urgent medical issue, please call 911 or visit an Emergency Department or Urgent Care Centre.


Protecting your own privacy

Electronic communication, including virtual visits and email, may have some risk. Third parties may take over electronic communication and introduce malware, phishing scams, or other unauthorized access.

NYGH is not responsible for the security of patients’ internet service providers, email domains, personal devices or personal computers.

We suggest that you use your personal email when communicating about your health and not a work email address, as your employer may have the right to inspect your work email.

Use a secure internet connection. Do not use a public internet connection such as at the airport internet café, public library or other open area. Other people may be able to use the link to listen in on your appointment without you knowing.


NYGH protecting your privacy

Your privacy is very important to us. We do our best to make sure that any information you give to us during virtual care visits is private and secure, but no video or audio tools are ever completely secure. There is an increased security risk that your health information may be intercepted or disclosed to third parties when using video or audio communication tools. We protect your privacy during virtual visits in the same way as we do during a clinic visit.

This means:

  • Only the people providing care to you will be present during your appointment.
  • The discussion during the visit is your health record, just like an in-person appointment.
  • We suggest that you take similar steps to protect your own privacy. This means being aware of your surroundings and who may be able to overhear your virtual visit.


Can I decline a virtual visit or change my mind?

You can decline or withdraw your consent for virtual visits at any time by contacting your care provider. Please know that this may lead to delays in your care as only urgent in-person appointments are being offered in our clinics to protect patients and health care providers from COVID-19.