Virtual Healthcare in Canada

The world of healthcare is undergoing a drastic shift, with an increasing number of people warming up to the idea of virtual care options and realizing the potential that they hold. That being said, the concept is still somewhat foreign to many, and with that comes caution and hesitancy to try something new.

Should you, as an advisor, be recommending virtual care options within benefit plans? How can you best explain their value to your clients, and help them to make the right choices for their particular circumstances?

Virtual Care to Fill the Gap

Access to timely healthcare in Canada is becoming an increasingly rare phenomenon. 4.8 million Canadians do not have a family doctor, while those who do cannot reliably book a same-day appointment. This leaves patients with some less favourable options: visit a walk-in clinic, take a trip to the emergency room, or simply forgo seeking care entirely.

These options are inefficient and grossly time-consuming, often requiring hours-long wait times for simple health issues. In fact, pre-COVID statistics report that 40,000 Canadians visited the emergency room for a simple prescription refill. Clearly, there is a gap in the current healthcare system which is directly impacting the quality and efficiency of patient care.

A significant benefit to virtual care options is that they are there when needed, irrespective of the patient’s location. Patients with virtual care have an instant connection to healthcare professionals, which they can use for a wide range of services, including:

  • Prescriptions
  • Diagnoses
  • Mental health consultations
  • Lab work orders
  • Specialist referrals
  • Advanced imaging referrals
  • General inquiries

Through virtual care, patients have access to multiple forms of communication including face-to-face consultations with doctors, image transferring, as well as synchronous or asynchronous text communication. It is proven that over 50% of doctor’s office issues can be handled without direct contact, and therefore can be handled remotely. Virtual care options do not diminish the quality of care received they simply accelerate the process of acquiring it!

Efficient Care Adds Value to Employers

The average employee in Canada misses 9.3 days of work a year for healthcare-related issues. While many people think of healthcare as being a burden on patients, in reality, it is a large burden on employers, as well.

Businesses have a lot to gain by including virtual care in their employee benefits packages. In reducing the time required to access healthcare – travel time, waiting time – and opening the door for healthcare to be easily accessed outside of working hours, employers effectively lower those 9.3 days and create a more efficient and streamlined workplace. By considering virtual care options, employers gain the benefits of reduced absenteeism, the ability to attract and retain talent, and of course, a significant increase in employee wellness!

Why Should Employers Pay for Virtual Care Options?

As more people are realizing the potential of virtual healthcare options, the free options within virtual care are becoming increasingly saturated. This means that the initial appeal – immediate care without wait times – is slowly disappearing. Free virtual care options are beginning to see increasingly larger wait times, with many patients now reporting wait times of 45 to 60 minutes per session.

In paid options, however, service level agreements come into play. Employers can feel confident that they will receive the benefits they are paying for – efficient care that will not unnecessarily disrupt the workday of their employees – and they will in turn reap the rewards. The investment in paid virtual care options is far lower in the long-term than what employers would otherwise pay to make up for the wasted time associated with in-person doctor’s visits, or the growing wait times connected to free virtual care options.

Why Should Advisors Promote Virtual Healthcare?

As an advisor, it’s crucial that you be knowledgeable in the latest healthcare trends and remain interested in the quality of care that your clients and their employees receive. It’s projected that within the next three to five years, 90% of Canadians will have access to virtual care – you will be doing yourself and your clients a favor by staying ahead of the curve!

Big, marquee employers like banks and insurance providers have begun offering virtual care to their employees in their benefits plans. This means that we should expect to see this trend extending out to other industries and smaller businesses – which means that you, as an advisor, should remain informed about the wealth of virtual care options that your clients can take advantage of.

Contact The Benefits Trust today to learn more about how virtual care can benefit you, as well as your clients, as the trend toward virtual options continues to take hold.

Robert Crowder
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