Friday, March 10, 2017

Thx Doc! TTYL!

Maple, Canada’s first 24/7 online service that allows virtual doctor’s visit, was launched in Ontario January 2017. Maple is a service that permits online consultation with registered Canadian doctors via instant messaging or video chat. This is not an entirely novel service. Akira, which also operates in Ontario, utilizes a similar model (though not 24/7). This type of service is coined “Telemedicine.” It intends to use telecommunication to provide care to patients from a distance. In countries such as U.K. and United States, massive adoption of these services has already taken place.

An encounter with Maple doctors consists of the following: describing your symptoms, talking with a doctor via instant messaging or video chat, and a wrap up. Doctors are able to write prescriptions (except for narcotics and control substances), write sick notes, and diagnose.

Maple certainly addresses some significant downfalls with our current healthcare system. A report noted “Only 31-46% of Canadians could get an appointment the same day or the next day, not including emergency department visits.” Maple claims that patients would be able to see physicians online “within minutes.” In terms of convenience, Maple may be appealing due to being accessible from anywhere:  home, vacation, or office. The advantages mentioned may be further magnified for patients living in rural/remote areas as there is a deficit of doctors areas available in these areas.

There are also several elements that prevent Maple from being widely used. Due to the nature of the interactions, a physical examination would not be possible. This can be concerning because accurate diagnosis of many medical conditions may rely on physical examinations. However, Maple has cited that up to 70% of non-emergency issues can be resolved without ever needing a hands-on physical exam. Another disadvantage is that patients are unable to pick their own doctors using Maple. This makes it difficult to establish long term relationships and to follow up on any issues. In addition, the services have to be paid for because OHIP does not currently cover these services. Lastly, there are limitations to the physician’s scope of practice. They are unable to prescribe narcotics and controlled substances, authorize a specialist referral or order lab tests, and finally consultations are not intended for emergency situations.

Maple and telemedicine are unique services. Given the technology driven age we live in, it would be exciting to see if this service will grow. Currently, the lack of public coverage significantly limits its use. Despite this, there are select groups of patients with limited access to doctors that could benefit greatly from this service.

It would be interesting to hear from patients who have firsthand experience with these types of services.



CBC news. “Canadian Patients wait longest to see family doctors”. January 20, 2014.
Retrieved from  on March 9, 2017

CNW. “First 24/7 virtual doctor’s ‘office’ arrives in Canada: New services launches to connect doctors and patients in minutes.” January 30, 2017
Retrieved from on March 9, 2017

Maple. “Maple – Frequently asked questions.” 2016.
Retrieved from on March 9, 2017

OTN. “What is Telemedicine.” 2017.
Retrieved from on March 9, 2017