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Teletriage/Telehealth and primary health service utilization by recent immigrants and refugees to Ontario

TitleTeletriage/Telehealth and primary health service utilization by recent immigrants and refugees to Ontario
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPottie, K., Batista R., Dahrouge S., and Ng E.
InstitutionSIIReN - System Integration and Innovation Research Network
CityOttawa, ON

Telehealth is considered an important way to enable access to health care and health related issues like health info or advice to people who need it. The benefits of Telehealth have been acknowledged for both the health system and the patients. These services can help to reach vulnerable populations, such as immigrants who face important challenges accessing health services. Telehealth services have been growing in Canada in the last 10 years. Ontario Teletriage/Telehealth is one of the largest models in the country and has been rolling out for several years. The use of this service has progressively increased and almost 900,000 calls were registered throughout the province in the fiscal year 2010/11. However, despite the increase in use of this service, its impact on health care accessibility is far from expected. We used CCHS data (cycles 2009 and 2010) to conduct an analysis of immigrant's access to primary health care in Ontario and determine the access and use of Telehealth services to address their health needs. Our results showed that immigrants continue to face important challenges accessing first level of health care services in Ontario. Compared to long-term and non-immigrants, they have more difficulties to receive health information or advice when they need it. Similarly they have more problems to receive routine and immediate care. Language represents the most important barrier that determines that access to primary care services. For non-immigrants and immigrants living in Canada, the use of telehealth services represents an important source of information and advice, however among recent immigrants this is an underused option.