In addition to video and telephone, there are lots of tools that can enable communication with your patients and other care providers, either synchronously or asynchronously. Review the options listed below and consider additional opportunities to integrate virtual care into your practice workflow to support optimal care delivery. for help navigating options and boosting your use of virtual care technologies.

Patient portal

A patient portal gives patients secure access to personal health information. Patients can login using a secure username and password from anywhere with an internet connection. Some EMR vendors offer a patient portal for an additional fee; there are also stand-alone platforms that can integrate with your EMR.


  • It can provide administrative information such as appointment times, educational materials, and some notifications. 

  • It can provide patient care related information such as test results and medication advice that is tracked in the EMR. 

  • It empowers patients to take an active role in their health care by providing access to their health care information. 

  • It provides a single access point for all patient-physician interaction.


  • Patients might misinterpret information. 

  • Patients might view information without context from their provider, which could cause unnecessary anxiety.

Digital phone numbers (also known as VOIP: Voice Over Internet Protocol)

Voice Over IP (VOIP) is an internet-based system that can consolidate communications services such as phone calls, voice messaging, fax, and SMS at your practice. It is available on phones, many personal computers, and other devices connected to the internet.


  • It can mask your personal phone number when you call patients. 

  • Some platforms show the clinic name on the call display. 

  • Some platforms offer a virtual reception desk and call rerouting. 

  • It can be a convenient service for remotely managing phone lines.


  • You might not be able to transfer your currently used numbers.

Online booking

Online booking might not always be feasible for your practice but it is a good solution to automate some of the tasks related to appointment booking, such as sending patients a link for a video appointment or education materials. It can be integrated with your EMR, or it can be a standalone platform.

  • Check with your EMR vendor for options and recommendations.

  • Consult with your colleagues what platform they use, what works and what doesn't.

  • Discuss with your medical office assistant (MOA) staff how much time they use for booking-related phone calls and all related tasks.

  • Decide how patients will book their own appointments and have built-in directions for patients.

  • Consider a gradual approach to implementing online booking  to avoid booking errors. Test with your team and select patients.

  • Collect feedback to decide whether online booking will work for your practice.


  • When integrated with your EMR, reception does not have to move and confirm appointments.

  • Offers flexibility to patients who can manage their routine care.

  • Option to send automatic confirmations, preparatory instructions, and reminders, which can significantly decrease reception phone calls.

  • Patients who book their own appointments can consider their own time commitments and tend to miss fewer appointments. 

  • A link for patients can be placed on the clinic's website or Pathways profile page. 

  • Opportunity to add additional information and improve overall communication with patients.


  • If not integrated with the EMR, might need double entry to reconcile EMR scheduler and online booking.

  • If integrated with your EMR, might have an additional cost.

  • In multi-provider practices, each provider might have different needs, which increases complexity.

  • Need to develop and incorporate clear instructions for patients to prevent inappropriate booking.

  • Screening and approval process might be necessary to ensure proper booking.

Clinic website

Most practices only need a simple website, but getting started can feel overwhelming. You might wish to contract a web developer to build your clinic website. Research local contract companies and self-hosted platforms to choose a service provider. The Pathways Medical Care Directory is a great option for sharing information about your clinic. Family physicians can create a profile that includes their clinic's contact information, what types of appointments are offered (in person, telephone, video), instructions on how to book an appointment, clinic hours, and other resources specific to your community. Additionally, clinics can include links to forms on their Pathways profile that patients can complete online and submit directly to the clinic prior to their appointment.


  • A great way to post current information about your practice such as clinic hours, a link to online booking, downloadable patient forms, and clinic policies. 

  • Easily available and accessible for most patients. 

  • Can provide an option for a clinic to have a designated email address (see below). 


  • Need to consider how to make your website accessible for patients with literacy or language barriers. Your team will need to actively promote the website to your patients and regularly update the web content, which could require working with a contractor on a regular basis.

Clinic-specific email account

When creating an email address to be used for your clinic, you may choose to use a consumer email solution (e.g., Gmail), or you may want to register your unique clinic name as a domain name (e.g., There are a number of providers offering domain name registration for a small fee, such as GoDaddy or It ensures exclusivity of your domain name as well as email address (URL). Free options are also available but have more limitations.


  • Using an email address such as, or improves your practice's professional image.

  • Keeping your work and personal accounts separate reduces the likelihood that any breaches to personal accounts will affect patient information.

  • Having a registered domain name allows you to consider creating a practice website in the future if you purchase a domain name with web hosting service.

  • There are cost effective platforms that offer domain name registration, website building and hosting, with privacy protection. 


  • Choosing the right level of service can be complex and requires some level of familiarity with technical terminology.

  • Typically there is a yearly automatic renewal of your registration even if you are not using it.

Broadcast messages

In certain scenarios, you may want to send messages to your entire patient panel or groups of patients. This could include providing general clinic updates (e.g. changes to clinic hours, availability of flu shots), or educational materials that are relevant to specific patient populations. There are various modalities you can consider:

  • Check your EMR’s capability for sending emails or text messages. When integrated with your EMR, the messages are tracked and can be documented in the patient chart.

  • Use your current email platform. See Setting up a clinic-specific email account above.

  • Investigate email marketing platforms (e.g. MailChimp) and bulk SMS platforms.

Be sure to discuss the following workflow considerations with your team:

  • Creating message templates and include appropriate disclaimers clearly explaining to patients what to do in case of emergency.

  • If you want patients to respond to emails, ensure your practice team is clear who will be monitoring the inbox.

  • Establishing a process to sort out the ‘bounce back’ emails resulting from incorrect addresses, or patients that wish to unsubscribe from receiving notifications.

  • Ensuring that email recipients cannot see who else the email was sent to by putting addresses in the “bcc” field and NOT the “to” or “cc” fields.


  • Your practice can send standard updates to all patients in timely manner.

  • Can be used to send useful resources and reminders to groups of patients.

  • Is familiar and convenient for most patients.


  • Some email platforms limit the number of addresses for one email. Test your office email program.

  • SMS messaging is limited to 140 characters.

  • A patient might reply to the message when it’s not expected or appropriate.

  • There is no guarantee that the patient will read the message. 

  • There may be a cost for certain platforms.

FPSC's Practice support program

Contact the for support implementing and enhancing the use of virtual care. The team of coaches can help:

  • Deliver virtual care in a way that emphasizes the patient-doctor relationship.

  • Support optimal patient care through the adoption of full-spectrum virtual care, alongside in-person appointments.

  • Identify opportunities to integrate virtual care into your practice workflow in a way that is both sustainable and effective.

The Doctors Technology Office is an FPSC-initiative.