Access Virtual: British Columbia’s Telehealth Service

June 2, 2020
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Access Virtual is a telehealth service offered in British Columbia that falls under its Medical Services Plan. It connects you with physicians and doctors using video calls through your phone. It’s free for any Canadian resident that has a care card number, and if you don’t (or if you’re an international customer), consultation is $91.

However, our research show us that Maple is an overall better option. With Maple, you’ll get instant access to Canadian Doctors (you can choose whether you want to text them, call them or have a video consultation), doctor’s note and prescriptions. It’s available everywhere in Canada (not just B.C), works 24/7, and visits start as low as $49, with the option to sign up for an annual medical membership.

Telehealth services are becoming more and more common in Canada, especially right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are some remote medical services that are exclusive to residents of certain provinces, such as Access Virtual.

This service is offered in British Columbia as a way to assure their residents can access health care services any time they need it. Today, we’re going to take a look at how Access Virtual works and if it’s actually worth it. We’ll also compare it with other telehealth options available for Canadians to see which comes out on top.

What Is Access Virtual

Access Virtual (formerly known as EQ Virtual) is a free telehealth service available in British Columbia, offered under the Medical Services Plan (MSP) of the province. This telemedicine platform connects residents of BC with certified Doctors and Physicians.

This service is a network of health care specialists, doctors, and mental health professionals that are available online for B.C. residents. It allows people to connect with these specialists over video, voice notes, and/or direct messages.

Access Virtual is one of the many programs that are covered by the MSP. It’s a versatile way to approach affordable medical services for everyone, even for those who can’t physically reach a clinic for one reason or another.

Virtual Health 2.0: How Access Virtual Works

Using Access Virtual to connect with doctors is pretty easy. You can do this either through your phone, using their app (currently available for iOS and Android), or directly through your computer by using their website.

The first thing you’ll have to do is create your virtual account. To do this, you’ll have to click on “See a Doctor” and then on “Create account” and the site will redirect you to a sign-up sheet you’ll have to fill in.

You will be asked to sign in and give some personal information like your name, address, and a Health Number (although this last part is optional). Of course, if you want covered visits, you will need to give your Health Care Card Number.

Second, you’ll be asked to describe your symptoms. Feel free to describe how you’re feeling in detail, the more information you give the better your diagnostic will be. For example, things like medications, allergies, and any preexisting condition you may have are all important.

Third, wait to be connected to a medical professional. First, you will be connected to a Care Coordinator that will help you out answering any questions you might have. Then, the coordinator will connect you to the Doctor.

Lastly, take a look at your care plan. Your doctor will create a care plan especially designed for you. You can ask your coordinator to help you out and assist you with sending any prescriptions to your local pharmacy, booking a follow-up, or even managing lab tests or other types of paperwork.

You Can Use Access Virtual For

Access Virtual’s doctors provide consultations for a wide range of health-related issues such as:

  • Flu and Cold symptoms.
  • Prescriptions refills.
  • Medication Reviews.
  • Uncomplicated Urinary Tract Infections.
  • Skin issues.
  • Laboratory Investigations and Result Interpretations.
  • Depression, Anxiety, Stress.
  • Sexual Health.
  • Sick Notes.

Access Virtual is a great option for adults who need to book a quick doctor’s appointment, don’t have a family doctor, or simply don’t want to wait in a crowded emergency area at a hospital or clinic.

The doctors at Access Virtual are qualified to help you via computer and give you a professional medical assessment, just as you would get in a traditional doctor visit, all through a secure video software.

Pro tip: At the moment, Access Virtual doesn’t have a stance on COVID-19. If you’re looking for a telehealth service to clear your doubts on whether or not you might have related symptoms, we recommend Maple

Does Access Virtual Cover Prescriptions And Testing?

Yes, you can have access to prescriptions, testings, and referrals with Access Virtual. When it comes to prescriptions, your doctor will be able to assess you and send the prescriptions you need to the pharmacy of your choice.

Everything is done electronically, so all you really have to do is pick up the medicines, or have them deliver them to your home if you want to. Keep in mind, however, Access Virtual doctors don’t have permission to prescribe medications such as narcotics, benzodiazepines, stimulants, and medical marijuana.

As to testing, if you happen to have a condition that needs blood tests done, you can get a requisition for testing through their platform. Their doctors are qualified to provide the necessary paperwork to get the testing done.

Much like it happens with prescriptions, your doctor will send the requisition electronically to the testing location of your choice. Or they will send it directly to you so you can print it out.

Access Virtual and Mental Health Care

If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or stress, Access Virtual can connect you with certified counselors and psychologist that will help you. It’s an alternative option to traditional visits.

The process to see a certified counselor is pretty much the same than to see a regular doctor. Meaning you will have to talk to a Care Counsellor first and then be referred to a mental health specialist.

How Much Does Access Virtual Cost

All British Columbia residents with a care card number that’s eligible for MSP have instant coverage. In case your MSP is inactive, or if you’re an international patient, you can still use Access Virtual by paying $91 per consultation.

However, we recommend you to check if your MSP is active and double-check if it includes this service, that way, you can make the most out of it.

Related: Check out our article on MSP.

Access Virtual vs Maple

Although both Maple and Access Virtual are telehealth services, they are quite different from one another. One is a private service that covers all of Canada (except Quebec) and the other is part of a government program designed just for British Columbians.

With Maple, you can instantly connect with Canadian doctors from your smartphone or computer. They are available at any time, anywhere. You can contract a plan with them to access their consultations, or, if you’re a resident of British Columbia, get free access to video visits through the MSP.

On the other hand, Access Virtual is a service that falls under the province of British Columbia Medical Services Plans, meant to connect them with a care coordinator that will later on schedule an appointment with a physician.

In other words, Maple offers a direct and instant connection with certified doctors, while Access Virtual does have a few more filters before you can speak to a doctor about your health problem.

Another difference to notice is that EQ is meant for residents of British Columbia, meanwhile, Maple is a platform open for any Canadian resident that needs instant health care consultations.

Check out our full article about Maple to know more about it. You will find lots of information about what Maple is, how it works, and how you can join.

Costs ($91 vs. $49)

Access Virtual is covered for any B.C eligible MSP resident with a care card number, for everyone else, the service is $91 per consultation. On the other hand, Maple offers three different prices and plans you can choose, what’s even better, if you are a B.C resident under MSP, you get free access to video visits. Although Maple is available all the time, MSP-Covered visits are available from 7am to 9pm PT during weekdays, and 8am to 5pm PT during weekends, all 7 days of the week.

If you’re from anywhere else in Canada, you can expect to pay $49 per visit during the week (weekends are $79), or you can get a personal membership for $30 a month, with access to 30 visits per year.

Maple even has a family member medical membership for $50 a month, with access to 50 visits per year. And, if you want to save up even more, you can sign to one of their credit packages.

Wait Times 

To connect with a doctor using Access Virtual, you have to get through a Care Coordinator first. They are trained to make your experience in their platform easier, take in your symptoms, and answer any questions you may have. Talking to them is instant, but connecting with a doctor is not.

It’s only after you’re done talking to them they will schedule an appointment with a doctor or physician. Appointments are some times available right away (meaning you could see a doctor in less than ten minutes), but more often than not, you’ll have to wait at least one day to talk to a doctor.

Maple, on the other hand, connects you with doctors right away. They have the fastest real-time online connection to a doctor in Canada. If you need a video consultation with a doctor, you’ll be talking with one in about five minutes.

Services

Access Virtual offers doctor consultations for a range of common illnesses and injuries such as flu and cold symptoms, urinary infections, skin issues, mental health problems, and sexual health. 

They also give you access to sick notes, prescriptions refill, testing orders, and laboratory investigations and result interpretations. They pretty much cover all the basics of medical services.

On the other hand, Maple is qualified to help you with so much more than common illnesses and injuries. They have specialists in every area such as dermatology, psychiatry, pediatrics, psychotherapy, endocrinology, respirology, and more.

With Maple you also get access to sick notes, doctor’s notes, online prescriptions, and test requisitions for lab work all through their platform.

Hours

Access Virtual has set hours of access. This platform is open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 8 pm, and 9 am to 5 pm during weekends and holidays, which can be a huge set back when looking for instant online health care.

On the other hand, Maple offers 24/7 access to doctors. Their goal is to connect you with a licensed physician as quickly as possible, so their services work both on weekdays, weekends, and holidays.

Interface

When using Access Virtual, video is mandatory for every appointment. Meaning every scheduled visit with a physician is through a video consultation. They do not have text chat consultations available.

Maple on the other hand, with Maple you can choose how you want to communicate and interact with the doctor. You can decide if you want to text them, call them, or have a video consultation with them, it’s completely up to you.

Geography

Access Virtual is only available in British Columbia, and it’s meant to be used for their residents (although if you’re in B.C and don’t have a health care card, you can simply pay for the visit on your own).

Meanwhile, Maple is a telehealth platform that works all through Canada. No matter what province you’re in, you can still have access to it. And, if you happen to be a B.C Resident, video consultations are covered by MSP.

Prescriptions

Both Access Virtual and Maple give you access to prescriptions. With both services, you can get the prescriptions you need, and they will be sent either to the pharmacy of your choice or directly to your house.

Keep in mind, since they are both telehealth services, due to laws and regulations, they aren’t allowed to prescribe certain medications such as marijuana, narcotics, and stimulants.

Doctor’s Notes

Again, both Access Virtual and Maple give you access to doctor’s note or sick notes. They are both send digitally to you and be used for work or school.

With Maple, the doctor’s signature and direct contact information are on the note, just in case that info is required.


Access VirtualMaple
Cost Per AppointmentFree for B.C residents under MSP. For anyone else without a health care card it’s $91 per visit.Plans start at $49 per visit.
Wait TimesNot instant. You have to go through a Care Coordinator first and then schedule your appointment with the Doctor (can be on the same day, but usually you’ll be scheduled for the next one or two days)Instant, you can connect with a doctor in two minutes or less.
Services They have consultations for a range of common illnesses and injuries such as Flu and Cold symptoms, Urinary Infections, Skin issues, Mental Health problems, and sexual health. 
They have specialist in a wide range of areas such as dermatology, psychiatry, pediatrics, psychotherapy, endocrinology, respirology, and more. 
Visit HoursMonday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, Weekends and Holidays from 9am to 5pm.Works 24/7.
InterfaceEvery visit with a Doctor has to be made through video consultations.They offer text chat, audio, and video consultations. 
GeographyOnly available in British Columbia.Available everywhere in Canada.
PrescriptionsYesYes
Doctor’s NoteYesYes

In Summary

Access Virtual is a great alternative to traditional in-office visits we are so used to. If you are a resident of British Columbia that needs a quick consultation but don’t have the time or resources to go to a clinic, you’re quarantined at home or don’t have a family doctor,  you can connect with doctors right from your own house using this alternative.

However, if you’re open to online doctor visits, and need immediate health assistance, we truly recommend you go for Maple instead. Yes, it’s true Access Virtual is free for B.C residents with a care card, but if for any reason yours is expired/don’t have one, or simply need a better service, Maple is the right choice to make. 

You’ll have instant access to Canadian doctors, as well as access to doctor’s note, prescriptions and referrals, all in a matter of minutes, no matter where in Canada you are, at a very affordable price. Not to mention, Maple is free if you’re a B.C resident under MSP, so all your video visits will be covered.