International Journal of Nursing & Clinical Practices Volume 7 (2020), Article ID 7:IJNCP-327, 6 pages
Research Article
Special Issue: Community-Based Participatory Research Practices-II
Affordances and Constraints of Virtual Healthcare: Students' Experiences Accessing Online Physician

Jackie Nelson1, Viola Manokore1*, Chris Carvalho2, Cindy Boucher1 and Sheldon Kallio3

1NorQuest College, Edmonton, AB T5J 1L6, Canada
2Carveira Group Consulting, Edmonton, AB T5E 6N2, Canada
3Three Hive Consulting Inc., Canada
Dr Viola Manokore, NorQuest College, NorQuest -Health and Community Studies, Edmonton, AB T5J 1L6, Canada; E-mail:
10 July 2020; 20 August 2020; 22 August 2020
Nelson J, Manokore V, Carvalho C, Boucher C, Kallio S (2020) Affordances and Constraints of Virtual Healthcare: Students’ Experiences Accessing Online Physician. Int J Nurs Clin Pract 7: 327. doi:
The project was supported by Alberta Innovates grant number 20180308 in support of technology driven practice and training in healthcare.


Background: Students at a community college in Alberta were invited to participate in this project that offered access to virtual healthcare. Prior to inception of this project, the government medical insurance did not cover virtual healthcare for its members. However, at the end of this project, virtual healthcare was considered for coverage due to challenges created by COVID-19 pandemic. The main purpose of this study was to explore the affordances and constraints of a virtual healthcare platform as reported by the students who used the online primary healthcare services.
Methods: Students enrolled in the fall 2019 and winter 2020 term at the community college were invited to enrol in the project and given access to the virtual healthcare services provided by a Canadian company. Over 15,000 emails were send to the students at the college. Students who consented and volunteered to participate were enrolled to access the online physicians through the virtual healthcare company’s platform. 430 participants registered to be enrolled for the project. A total of 142 consultations were made. Participants completed a survey on their experiences soon after their consultations.
Results: The findings from the survey show that the students found the platform to be convenient, especially given the circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The students’ average satisfaction with the virtual healthcare services was 4.8 out of 5 stars. Students found the platform to be user friendly, convenient to students in rural areas and newcomers to Canada, and better than visiting clinics. However, students indicated that they will only access online physicians outside the project if insurance providers cover the services.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that virtual healthcare is convenient to patients especially given the healthcare access challenges that were a result of COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual healthcare will also reduce inequalities in health access of people who reside in rural and remote areas where clinics are at a distance.