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Message from the Registrar Regarding Virtual Care

Dr. DA (Gus) Grant, Registrar & CEO

The province adopted a new virtual care plan early on during the pandemic as a short-term measure to deal with COVID-19. Doctors Nova Scotia is calling on the government to make this a permanent health care option.

Physicians and patients are continuing to embrace the delivery of medical services over the phone or through secure platforms. The College welcomes this development. It will expand access to care while reducing inconvenience and risk during the pandemic.

We should all recognize this is a different form of medicine. Very few of us have been trained to do it, let alone experienced enough to do it well. There has been little chance to change manage, to train up, to ease in, to mentor, or to integrate.

The College recognizes this newness and we will regulate accordingly. We know doctors will get better and better at this over time, that there is learning to do, that education and support programs will be needed going forward. The College will expect physicians to act reasonably—not perfectly, but reasonably, in light of everything, including our inexperience.

Telemedicine should supplement but not replace in-person care. The College will expect physicians to turn their mind to whether telemedicine is appropriate for each patient. Whether it is or is not, physicians should document their logic.

To act reasonably, all physicians need be mindful of some fundamental challenges of telemedicine. First of all, telemedicine should supplement but not replace in-person care. The College will expect physicians to turn their mind to whether telemedicine is appropriate for each patient. Whether it is or is not, physicians should document their logic. If the encounter is not appropriate for telemedicine, say because a physical examination is necessary, the physician will need to offer reasonable access to be seen. If the physician determines the in-person assessment is to be done by another discipline or directs the patient to an emergency room, the physician will be required to document their logic as to why they need not assess the patient in-person first.

The vast majority of these medical services will be done over the phone as such we often refer to virtual care as telemedicine. The phone is great, except when it is not. We are all comfortable on the phone, but this comfort may be misleading. Over the phone, we are deprived of the visual, non-verbal cues essential to all doctor-patient communication. The patient is missing those cues as well. Telemedicine heightens the focus on precise language and documentation, to ensure that both physician and patient have a meeting of minds.

You are encouraged to review the College’s Professional Standard on the Delivery of Telemedicine Services.

Get Ready to Renew Your Licence Starting November 2

Each year physicians must renew their medical licence.

Annual renewal of your medical licence and corporation permit opens online November 2nd and runs until November 30th. We have provided the short checklist below to assist you in preparing to renew your licence online.

Licence Renewal Checklist

To renew your licence you will need:

We are here to help. Please contact us if you have any questions at:

Council Updates

The College Council, composed of physicians and public representatives, last met on October 9th.

Revised Licensing Policies

Policies regarding Defined licensure were revised to provide greater clarity regarding requirements for this provisional licence. These policies were approved by Council:  

2021 Licensing Fees

Council also approved the licensing fee schedule for 2021. Licensing fees for a Full Licence will not increase in 2021.

Physician Cooperation with the College

Self-regulation is a privilege of the medical profession which comes with responsibilities. This standard sets out the mandatory responsibilities of physicians that pertain to cooperation with the College.

Physicians must:

  1. Complete the annual license renewal form accurately and honestly.
  2. Promptly inform the College of a change of address or changes to other contact information.
  3. Promptly notify the College of any change in practice status including retirement.
  4. Inform the College of the location of stored or transferred medical records upon practice closure, relocation or retirement;
  5. Cooperate with the requirements of the Physician Peer Review Nova Scotia Program to maintain high standards of practice; and
  6. Cooperate with any requirements of an investigation or hearing committee dealing with a practice complaint.

Please review the College’s Professional Standard on Physician Cooperation with the College.

Virtual Care Resources for Physicians

Doctors Nova Scotia’s Virtual Care Toolkit

Getting Started with Virtual Care: Everything you need to know to provide synchronous virtual care.

Canadian Medical Association Virtual Care Playbook

This playbook was written to help Canadian physicians introduce virtual patient encounters (aka telemedicine) into their daily practices.