This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat, of:
Daroya E, Grey C, Klassen B, Lessard D, Skakoon-Sparling S, Perez-Brumer A, Adam B, Cox J, Lachowsky NJ, Hart TA, Gervais J, Tan DHS, Grace D. ‘It’s not as good as the face-to-face contact’: A sociomaterialist analysis of the use of virtual care among Canadian gay, bisexual and queer men during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sociol Health Illn. 2023 Jun 15. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9566.13686.
The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.
A CITF-funded study, published in Sociology of Health and Illness, discovered that virtual care (healthcare at home using mainly telephone consultations) not only helps with delivering and receiving medical care but also brings about changes in the ways that people interact and provide care. This analysis provides healthcare providers with valuable information about improvements that need to be made when offering virtual care to Canadian gay, bisexual, and queer men and other diverse populations. This study was led by Dr. Daniel Grace (University of Toronto).
- Closure of in-person services (with the patient and physician in the same room) and shifts to virtual care practice have disrupted access to sexual health testing among Canadian gay, bisexual, and queer men (GBQM).
- The COVID-19 pandemic also increased the demand for mental health services among GBQM, with some participants reporting long wait times.
- Some participants found it difficult to verbally describe their physical ailments over the telephone. In some cases, even when they had to inspect their own bodies and send photographs to their healthcare providers, an accurate diagnosis was not guaranteed.
- In-person consultations were viewed by some as allowing them to receive better care because of the ability of health care providers to see their body language and behavioural cues.
- When virtual care technologies were integrated with services at various care sites, including medical clinics, pharmacies, and laboratories, the delivery of care became more accessible and efficient. Some participants reported benefiting since integrated virtual care technologies saved both time and money.
The study’s sociomaterialThe interaction of humans (GBQM, service providers) and non-humans (virtual care technologies, COVID-19 pandemic, health-care systems and public health restrictions) creates virtual care capacities or closes them off. analysis offers a framework for understanding the successes and areas for improvement in delivering virtual care to meet the healthcare needs of GBQM and other diverse populations. This understanding can help policymakers ensure equitable access to healthcare services, maintain options for in-person care, and monitor the quality of care.
This analysis draws on data from the Engage COVID-19 study and consisted of 93 semi-structured interviews with GBQM in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, Canada, conducted between November 2020 and February 2021. Participants were purposively recruited along four key dimensions: ethno-racial backgrounds, age, gender identity, and HIV status.