Virtual care at SickKids

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Learn about virtual care, how to prepare for it and what to expect during a virtual video visit.

Key points

  • Virtual care is a way of providing health care remotely using technology, such as a telephone, computer or other mobile devices.
  • You will need a space that is quiet, private, well-lit and comfortable, and has a reliable internet and/or phone connection, to attend a virtual care visit.
  • Virtual visits can reduce travel to the hospital and minimize wait times.
  • Virtual care visits cannot be used as substitutes for emergencies or in-person procedures.
  • Your/your child’s clinical team will provide you with instructions on how to join your virtual visit well in advance of the scheduled time.

What is virtual care?

Virtual care is a way of providing health care remotely using technology, such as a telephone, computer or other mobile devices. A virtual visit with a health-care provider or health-care team can take place over the phone or on a video platform instead of in person at the hospital. It can provide another option for you to connect with your clinical team. This article will focus mainly on what to expect during a virtual video visit.


Virtual visits are not always a suitable alternative for in-person visits, for example, in emergencies, or when a physical examination or a procedure is needed. Your clinical team will work with you to decide whether your appointment needs to be in person or can be done virtually.

A virtual eye appointment from the health-care practitioner's perspective

What are the benefits of virtual care?

Virtual care can be convenient, timely and safe. Appointments done over the phone, computer or a mobile device reduce the need to travel to the hospital and can minimize the wait time for clinic appointments.

Is virtual care safe?

Your privacy is very important to the clinical team. Similar to an in-person visit, they will make it a priority to ensure that any information you give to them during a virtual visit is kept confidential and secure. Any personal or health information collected during your virtual visit is used to provide care for your child in accordance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act.

While the clinical team will do their best to protect the privacy and security of your health information, electronic communications such as email, and video meeting platforms such as Zoom, are never completely secure. There is an increased security risk that your health information may be intercepted or disclosed to third parties when using electronic communications tools.

To help the clinical team keep your information safe, it is recommended that you do the following:

  • Use your own personal computer or device.
  • Use a secure internet connection at home. Avoid using an internet connection in a public area, such as an airport, store, restaurant or library.
  • Use your personal e-mail, not a work email address, and make sure the clinical team has your correct email address. Signing up for a MyChart account to access virtual visits and health-care information is another way to help protect your information.
  • Choose a private space where your discussions with your provider will not be overheard.

When participating in virtual care, you will be sharing your/your child’s personal health information with a clinical team through electronic communications tools, which might include email, video conferencing (Zoom, OTN, etc.) or text messages. If you receive an email or electronic communication and are not sure if it is coming from your/your child’s clinical team at SickKids, please do not click on any links and contact the clinical team to verify the communication came from SickKids.

How much will a virtual visit cost?

The hospital treats virtual visits the same as in-person visits, charges are applied in certain situations. However, your internet or cellular service providers may charge you when you use your own equipment. Ensure you have sufficient data and bandwidth available for your virtual visit to avoid extra charges from your service provider. Contact your internet or cellular service providers to find out if you might incur charges from them.

Before your virtual care visit

Instructions on how to join your virtual visit will be provided through your MyChart account or by email ahead of time. You may need to download an app or online platform. The instructions may include additional steps from the clinical team to help you prepare for the virtual visit. It is also helpful to provide your/your child’s clinical team with a phone number where you can be contacted in case there are technical difficulties. There are a few things you can do before your virtual visit to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible:

Be prepared

  • Think about the goals of the virtual visit and prepare a list of any questions you may want to ask your/your child’s clinical team.
  • Have a notebook and pen available in case you want to write information down during the virtual visit.
  • Make sure all pre-requisite tests and procedures have been completed in advance of your/your child’s virtual visit, if applicable, such as bloodwork or imaging.
  • Have your or your child’s most recent height and weight measurements available. Depending on the type of visit, your/your child’s clinical team may ask for other measurements.
  • Have your/your child’s medication handy in case you need to share this information with the clinical team.

Choose an appropriate environment

  • Choose a space that is quiet, has good lighting and is comfortable for you/your child. Turn off the TV, radio, or other sources of noise in advance so that you and your child’s clinical team can hear each other clearly.
  • Make sure the space you choose is private. If there are other people in the room with you, tell the clinical team at the beginning of the virtual visit.
  • You may want to have a table nearby in case you want to take notes during the virtual visit.
  • If the clinical team needs to do an assessment of you/your child during the visit, they will give you instructions ahead of time to help you set up your space (e.g., having enough room to move or sit comfortably).

Have the right technology and equipment on hand

  • Make sure the space you are using has access to the internet and good telephone reception (in case your virtual video visit gets disconnected).
  • Use a laptop, desktop or tablet with audio and video. Make sure the speakers and microphone work and the volume can be turned up if needed. You may need to attach external speakers or use headphones/earbuds if the volume on your device is not loud enough.
  • If you do not have access to a laptop, desktop or tablet, you can try using your smartphone.
  • Download any apps needed for the virtual visit (e.g., Zoom, MS Teams, etc.)
  • Depending on the type of virtual care visit, your child’s clinical team may ask you to have other tools or equipment on hand as well, such as a measuring tape or ruler.
  • Test your equipment and audio before your virtual visit.

During your virtual care visit

A virtual appointment from the patient perspective

What happens during your child’s virtual care visit will depend on the clinical care department running the appointment and the reason for your child’s visit. Generally, most virtual visits will include the following:

  • Meeting a member/members of your/your child’s clinical team to discuss the reason for your/your child’s virtual visit
    • Just like an in-person visit, there may be more than one member of your child’s clinical team attending your virtual visit. They may all call into the visit from the same physical location (like a conference room at the hospital), or they may join separately from different locations (like a home office or private workspace within the hospital).
  • Taking a health and/or family history of your child
  • Conducting a physical and/or psychological assessment of your child
  • Discussing the clinical team’s recommendations and next steps
  • A time for you to ask questions

What if I require an interpreter?

If you require an interpreter during your virtual visit your/your child’s clinical team can arrange for an interpreter to be present. Please remind the clinic ahead of time if you need an interpreter so the arrangements can be made.

What if I encounter technical difficulties?

If you experience technical difficulties during your virtual visit, please call your child’s clinic at the number they gave you in your appointment instructions.

Your/your child’s health-care provider will make every attempt to start the virtual visit at the scheduled time. We will try our best to contact you by phone if we think there will be a delay, however, please note that like in-person appointments, virtual visits can be delayed by up to 30 minutes.

You can also try searching for a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for the app or online platform you are using for troubleshooting tips. You can also visit the SickKids Virtual Clinic Visits page for more troubleshooting information.

After your virtual care visit

After your child’s virtual care visit is concluded you may receive:

  • A summary of the visit, including all of the names of the health-care providers on the call, their recommendations and next steps.
  • An appointment date for additional tests and procedures, such as bloodwork or imaging.
  • An appointment date for a follow-up visit with the clinical care team.

After Visit Summaries at SickKids are provided through MyChart, an online patient portal that provides patients and authorized caregivers access to parts of their SickKids’ electronic health record.

Last updated: June 25th 2021