OTTAWA -- A task force headed by the Canadian Medical Association says Canada is lagging behind other countries in providing virtual health care.

Virtual care can be any contact between a patient and their health providers, be it by phone, secure messaging or video conferencing.

Canada was once considered to be at the forefront of virtual medicine with the introduction of telehealth some 30 years ago, but members of the task force say the country's public health care systems have failed to adapt.

The task force discovered there are barriers to publicly funded doctors and nurses providing pan-Canadian care over the phone or online.

For one thing, provincial and territorial boundaries don't allow doctors to operate outside their own jurisdictions.

The task force, which includes the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada, submitted 19 recommendations to improve access to health care by phone or online, and those will be reviewed by the federal and provincial governments.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2020.