Maple joins ranks of new telemedicine companies

MapleA new paid service in Ontario called Maple allows clients to connect with doctors by instant messaging or video chat at any time of day, for a fee. The licensed physicians can offer basic medical care for non-urgent conditions, such as rashes, ear infections or coughs, according to its website. Services include sick notes, prescriptions, and, if needed, drug delivery. Maple CEO Brett Belchetz, who is also an emergency room doctor based in Toronto, says the technology is already used around the world, in places like the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and other parts of Europe.

“Virtual care has become a very much predominant way of doctors seeing patients in a way that’s convenient, and good in providing efficient care for the community,” he said. “While this has become a normal part of care around the world, it hasn’t penetrated into Canada.”

Belchetz wanted to address the issue of scrambling to get a doctor’s appointment last minute, as a way to free up space in walk-in clinics and emergency rooms. He also points to studies from the American Medical Association and Northern Ontario School of Medicine that show between 50-70 percent of medical cases could be addressed through remote monitoring.

“At least half of the patients I see really don’t need me to lay physical hands on them in order for me to give a diagnosis or to provide treatment,” Belchetz said.

So far, there are 50 Ontario-based physicians available through the website who also work as family physicians or in the emergency room. Belchetz says there are plans to expand to British Columbia, Alberta and several Maritime provinces over the next few months, and throughout the country by the end of the year.

Pricing depends on the time of day or night. Weekday consultations between 8 a.m. and midnight are $49, while weekend visits between 8.m. and midnight are $79. After hours appointments between midnight and 7:59 a.m. cost $99. Yearly personal and family memberships are also offered.

Belchetz believes Maple will prove its utility for lowering healthcare costs, and governments will fund the service in the coming years. During the company’s pilot phase, 95 per cent of cases were resolved without in-person care, he said. The service is especially useful for remote communities or people who can’t travel to a clinic due to disabilities or other barriers.

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Source: Yahoo Canada News