Virtual care appointments at St. Joseph’s - information for patients

As an alternative to in-person visits, some St. Joseph’s Health Care London clinics and health care providers offer the option for a virtual care appointment by telephone or video conference.

A virtual care appointment with your doctor or other health care provider is one where you meet in real time with a telephone call or by video conference. You’ll use your smartphone or other device and the internet, instead of coming to the hospital in-person.

St. Joseph’s and other teams across the province have been using virtual care appointments through the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) for many years.

IMPORTANT: If you have an urgent medical issue, call 911 or visit an Emergency Department or Urgent Care Centre. Do not call or send emails, or wait for a virtual care appointment if you have urgent symptoms or an emergency.

Why might I be offered a virtual care appointment?

Virtual care allows you to connect with your doctor or other health care provider by phone or video conference. Along with physical distancing, this offers:

  • More access and convenience for you to stay in the comfort of your own home
  • Reduced travel, parking and wait time
  • Reduced risk of possible exposure to COVID-19
How do I know if a virtual care appointment is right for me?

You and your doctor or health care provider will decide together if a virtual care appointment is right for you and your unique situation. You’ll also talk about which virtual care appointment option may be appropriate and available to you (telephone or video conference). It’s always your choice, depending your comfort level with the options.

How will my virtual care appointment be booked?
  • Your care team may call you in advance to discuss changing your upcoming appointment to a virtual care appointment and the available options for you. During this advance call, your health care provider will ask for your verbal consent to participate in a virtual care appointment. They’ll also ask for an email address so they can send you details about your virtual care appointment.
  • Your virtual care appointment could be a telephone call, or a video conference using OTN or Webex Meetings.
  • The decision on which type of virtual care appointment you have will be based on your care needs and the technology you and the hospital clinic are able to access and use comfortably.
  • You will be given the day and time of your virtual care appointment, and instructions on how to prepare.
How do I access my virtual care appointment?

Telephone

  • Your doctor or other health care provider will call you on the phone at the scheduled time.

Video conference

St. Joseph’s uses two secure video conferencing tools for video appointments.

  • Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) is funded and fully supported by the Government of Ontario to enable people to receive care at home.
  • Webex Meetings is another secure video conference tool supported by St. Joseph’s Information Services Technology team and used by other hospitals.

Your doctor or clinic will either email you an invitation link to your appointment or ask you to log in using a website or app at the scheduled time.

Be sure to test your internet connection and equipment to troubleshoot any issues when you receive the email. Test it again at least 15 minutes before each appointment.

What can I expect during a virtual care appointment?

During a virtual care appointment, you and your health care provider may discuss your current health status, any symptoms you’re experiencing and your needs, monitor your progress according to your care plan and address any questions you have about your condition.

If your doctor or health care provider feels an in-person visit is needed, they’ll discuss your options and next steps with you.

Telephone appointment

Your health care provider will call you on the phone at the scheduled time. You’ll discuss you’re feeling, your questions, and the next steps in your care plan.

Video conference appointment

Your health care provider will send you an email invitation. Using your smartphone or computer you’ll access the OTN or Webex video meeting at the scheduled time. You’ll discuss how you’re feeling, your questions, and the next steps in your care plan. If you have trouble with the video connection, your doctor or health care provider will call your telephone number instead.

What equipment do I need for a virtual care appointment?

You’ll need:

  • A personal device (smartphone, computer, tablet) with camera and microphone
  • Internet connection that’s stable, fast, reliable and password-protected (WiFi or data)
  • Personal email address
  • Pen and paper to write down your questions and take notes and instructions from your health care provider

If you don’t have access to these things, your health care team will do everything they can to make other arrangements for you to access care.

What can I do to prepare for my virtual care appointment?
  • Make sure your technology is set up properly. Ensure your device privacy settings allow access to your camera and microphone.
  • Find a quiet, private place so you can easily hear and be heard. It should be well-lit and distraction-free.
  • Decide if you would like a family member or caregiver to be with you during the appointment.
  • If you’re part of a group session, it’s important to be mindful of the privacy of other group members. Try to find a private spot in your home where other members of your family can’t see/hear the session. Use headphones if you can, and avoid having other distractions on in the background (television, music, etc.).
  • Have all your materials ready before the meeting including your health card, pen and paper to write down information and instructions, list of the medications you’re taking (if applicable), your notes on your medical history and symptoms, and any questions you want to ask.
  • Have the doctor or clinic phone number close at hand for troubleshooting if needed.
Can new prescriptions or refills be provided during a virtual care appointment?

Commonly prescribed medications may be provided digitally at the doctor’s discretion. Prescriptions may be sent directly to your pharmacy for pick-up in person. Be prepared to provide your doctor with the name and address of your pharmacy.

Can I decline virtual care?

Yes, it’s your choice. You can decline or withdraw your consent for virtual care at any time by contacting your health care provider. There may be longer wait times to be seen in person for non-urgent appointments.

Is virtual care safe and private? 

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

Electronic communication, including virtual care appointments and email, may have an increased risk that your health information is intercepted by third parties through malware, phishing scams or other unauthorized access.

St. Joseph’s is not responsible for the security of patients’ internet service providers, email domains, personal devices or personal computer.

To help us keep your information secure, we ask you do the following:

  • Use your personal smartphone.
  • 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 email; not a work email address.
  • Some care areas may send you a follow-up survey by email after your appointment. This is help us improve the quality of care we deliver. If you receive an email and survey link and aren’t sure if it’s coming from your health care team at St. Joseph’s, call your provider to confirm before clicking on any links.

By agreeing to participate in a virtual appointment, you’re agreeing to let your health care provider collect, use or disclose your personal health information through audio or video communications to provide you with care. Electronic (or virtual) communication may include email, videoconferencing (OTN, Webex Meetings), text messaging or a website.

Protecting your privacy

Your privacy is very important to St. Joseph’s. We protect your privacy during virtual care appointments in the same way we do during an in-person visit. Only the people providing care to you will be present during your appointment. The discussion during the virtual appointment is documented in your health record, just like an in-person appointment would be.

We suggest 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 appointment.

If you have any questions about your privacy, contact St. Joseph’s Privacy Office at 519-646-6100, ext. 65591 or email @email.

Where can I learn more or provide feedback about virtual care appointments?
  • If you have any questions or concerns about your virtual care appointment, contact your hospital clinic or health care provider.
  • St. Joseph’s Patient Relations
  • Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) website https://otn.ca/