Northern Ontario Residents Seeking Relief from Long Wait Times at Online Dermatology Clinic

Residents in northern Ontario and across Canada are turning to online dermatology clinics to avoid extensive wait times for treatment. The founder of DermCafé in Toronto believes that this model could potentially alleviate pressures in other areas of the healthcare system.

Gisele Guenard from Sudbury experienced a skin condition two years ago as a result of complications from COVID-19. She was informed that it would take five months to see a local dermatologist, prompting her to seek alternative options after visiting multiple walk-in clinics and even the hospital emergency room.

Ultimately, Guenard discovered relief from her condition through an online clinic called DermCafé. Dr. Annie Liu, one of the clinic’s founders, stated that while some conditions require in-person assessment, many common skin issues can be diagnosed virtually. Patients can receive treatment recommendations after a week of waiting, with referrals to dermatologists if necessary.

Dr. Liu highlighted the significant wait times in some provinces, which can lead patients to travel to the U.S. or forego specialist care altogether. She emphasized the importance of utilizing online clinics to address the shortage of dermatologists in Canada and potentially extend this model to other medical specialties.

Despite the benefits of online clinics, Dr. Liu expressed concerns about barriers to care created by the Ontario government and medical associations. Issues such as reduced reimbursement for virtual care and increased administrative burdens have hindered the sustainability of online healthcare services.

In response to these challenges, the Ministry of Health announced plans to reduce paperwork and enhance physician compensation to improve patient care. While the concept of online clinics is relatively new in Canada, efforts are being made to streamline processes and increase access to virtual healthcare services.

Erik White, a CBC journalist based in Sudbury, covers a variety of stories relating to northern Ontario. For more updates, follow him on Twitter @erikjwhite or send story ideas to