During a virtual appointment 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. We are using virtual appointments to reduce the number of people in the hospital in an effort to protect our patients, staff and the community from the spread of COVID-19.
Virtual care is not new. Health care teams across Ontario have been using virtual care for some time through the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN). Other systems are also available in Ontario.
- What happens during a virtual appointment?
Your health care 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 appointment is needed instead of a virtual one, they will discuss your options and next steps with you.
- How will my virtual appointment be booked?
Your care team may call you to discuss changing your upcoming appointment to a virtual one. They will talk to you about options for virtual care. This may include offering a regular telephone call or a video call using a system called OTN or Zoom.
They will give you instructions on how to prepare.
They will also ask for your verbal consent for the upcoming appointment.
They will let you know the day and time of your virtual visit and confirm they have your preferred contact information.
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.
- How can I tell what appointments are virtual?
The clinic will contact you to let you know what appointments are virtual.
Your clinic will contact you to explain how the virtual visit will work.
- What can I expect during my virtual appointment?
Your care team will call you on the phone at the scheduled time. You and your care team talk about how you’re feeling, your questions and next steps in your care plan.
Video (audiovisual) visit using OTN or Zoom for Healthcare
MGH uses a secure video conferencing tool provided by Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) for video calls. OTN is funded and fully supported by the Government of Ontario to enable people to receive care at home. Zoom for Healthcare is another secure video conferencing tool which can be used by hospitals.
What to expect using OTN or Zoom for Healthcare?
Your care team calls you on your smartphone or computer using OTN or Zoom for Healthcare at the scheduled time. You and your care team talk about how you’re feeling, your questions and next steps in your care plan. If you have trouble with the video system, your care team will call your telephone number instead.
Are OTN and Zoom safe and private?
OTN and Zoom for Healthcare are both secure and private (encrypted).
Personal health information discussed during the virtual visit is not stored or kept in any way by OTN or Zoom for Healthcare.
For OTN: If you agree to participate in a virtual visit, MGH will need to provide your name and email address to OTN. Your care team will schedule your virtual visit with OTN. You get an email from @email. Do not reply to the email or send the video conference link or appointment email to anyone. This email contains your care provider’s name and the date and time of your virtual visit. It will also have a link to access your appointment and instructions on using OTN. For Zoom Healthcare: if you agree to participate in a virtual visit, MGH will schedule your virtual visit. You will receive an e-mail from the clinic with a video conference link. Do not reply to the email or send the video conference link or appointment email to anyone.
- Please call the clinic if you have any questions regarding your virtual appointment or if you have not received this email from OTN or from the clinic the day before your appointment.
- Email consent and safety
MGH may also send you appointment information and other general information by email, if you have consented to receive information in this way.
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 an Urgent Care Centre.
Some care areas may send you a follow-up survey after your appointment by email. This is to help us to improve the quality of care we deliver. If you receive a link to a survey and are not sure if it is coming from your care team, please call them to check before clicking on any links.
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.
MGH 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.
Protecting your privacy
Your privacy is very important to us at MGH. We protect your privacy during virtual visits in the same way as we do during a clinic visit. Only the people providing care to you will be present during your appointment. Know that our discussion during the visit is documented in your health record, just like an in-person appointment would be.
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 appointment or change my mind?
You can decline or withdraw your consent for virtual visits by contacting the clinic specified on your appointment brochure. Please know that this may lead to delays in your care during this challenging time, as only urgent in-person appointments are being offered in our clinics right now.
You may withdraw consent for communication using email at any time by contacting the privacy office (see below).
- Where can I learn more about virtual appointment?
Ontario Telemedicine Network
Zoom for Healthcare
Contact our Privacy Officer:
Phone: 416-469-6580 extension 7781