Go to content

Virtual care use among older immigrant adults in Ontario, Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic: a repeated cross-sectional analysis


The critical role of virtual care during the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about the widening disparities to access by vulnerable populations including older immigrants. This paper aims to describe virtual care use in older immigrant populations residing in Ontario, Canada. In this population-based, repeated cross-sectional study, we used linked administrative data to describe virtual care and healthcare utilization among immigrants aged 65 years and older before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visits were identified weekly from January 2018 to March 2021 among various older adult immigrant populations. Among older immigrants, over 75% were high users of virtual care (had two or more virtual visits) during the pandemic. Rates of virtual care use was low (weekly average <2 visits per 1000) prior to the pandemic, but increased for both older adult immigrant and non-immigrant populations. At the start of the pandemic, virtual care use was lower among immigrants compared to non-immigrants (weekly average of 77 vs 86 visits per 1000). As the pandemic progressed, the rates between these groups became similar (80 vs 79 visits per 1000). Virtual care use was consistently lower among immigrants in the family class (75 visits per 1000) compared to the economic (82 visits per 1000) or refugee (89 visits per 1000) classes, and was lower among those who only spoke French (69 visits per 1000) or neither French nor English (73 visits per 1000) compared to those who were fluent in English (81 visits per 1000). This study found that use of virtual care was comparable between older immigrants and non-immigrants overall, though there may have been barriers to access for older immigrants early on in the pandemic. However, within older immigrant populations, immigration category and language ability were consistent differentiators in the rates of virtual care use throughout the pandemic.



Brual J, Chu C, Fang J, Fleury C, Stamenova V, Bhattacharyya O, Tadrous M. PLOS Digit Health. 2023; 2(8):e0000092. Epub 2023 Aug 2.

View Source

Contributing ICES Scientists

Associated Sites