In recent years, advances in technology have made virtual healthcare tools affordable and accessible to Canadians nationwide. In today’s instant gratification culture, consumers are becoming increasingly impatient. Demand for convenient, time-saving, on-the-go services spans nearly every demographic and industry – healthcare is no exception. Canadians, particularly millennials, with health concerns want immediate answers and are becoming less and less willing to spend hours waiting in a clinic lobby for a five minute consult with a physician.
Video-chat apps like Facetime and Skype have become commonplace for personal and business interactions. Not surprisingly, similar technology services are beginning to transform how Canadians receive healthcare. Need a prescription, lab requisition, or specialist referral? What previously may have involved a 45 minute drive to a doctor’s office and a one hour wait in line can now be replaced by a two minute text interaction or video chat, from the convenience of ones home or office.
Learn more about the ROI of virtual care for employers, the barriers and benefits to virtual care adoption and more.
As demand for virtual healthcare increases, particularly among young professionals and working parents, more and more Canadian employers are adding virtual healthcare services like Akira by TELUS Health to their health benefit plans. “I couldn’t be happier with the Akira by TELUS Health service” says Connor Scharfe, VP at Marsh Canada. “I thought I may have had a blood clot in my leg and was contemplating going to the ER. But after a 5 minute video consult with a doc from my desk, I was reassured that my leg pain was due to muscle cramping and not a DVT, I was grateful I didn’t spend the whole day at the ER to find that out.”
Considering adding virtual care to your employee benefits program? Buyers beware: not all virtual care apps are created equal.
Here is a guide that outlines what to look for when shopping around for virtual care platforms in order to make sure you make the best decision for your company.
1/ ASSESS THE QUALITY OF MEDICAL SUPPORT RECEIVED
There are a number of considerations when assessing and comparing the quality of virtual care support. Here are some things to look for:
- Is the service 24 hours? While some virtual care platforms offer 24 hour service, others restrict the service to certain parts of the day (eg. from 8am – 12am and 8am – 4pm on weekends). Consider your employee demographic – if many of your employees travel across time zones for business, have young children, or have chronic health issues, 24 hour support may be especially important.
- Is the service on-demand? Some virtual healthcare apps provide instant, on-demand consults whereas others require users to pre-schedule virtual consults at specific times of the day. As daily schedules are often fluid and hectic, many employees prefer the convenience of being able to squeeze in a quick consult between meetings or on their lunch break vs. having to schedule such consults in advance.
- Is the interaction human or AI based? Some virtual care apps use artificial intelligence to facilitate initial patient intake and triage whereas others provide an entirely human experience from intake and diagnosis to treatment and follow up. Consider the user experience that best suits your employee demographic.
- Is the service fully bilingual? Does your organization do business in Quebec or have French speaking employees? If so, it’s important to consider the level of bilingualism of the service offered.
To learn more about Akira by TELUS Health virtual health for your employees, click here.
2/ ASSESS THE PROVIDER’S LEVEL OF MEDICAL EXPERTISE
As with any hot new technological innovation, everyone wants to jump on the proverbial bandwagon. With dozens of virtual care apps popping up in Canada, it’s hard to know which ones will go the distance. When considering a virtual care platform, look for a provider with a good reputation and a history of delivering quality healthcare in Canada. Companies like Medisys Health Group, a member of TELUS Health, which offers the virtual care service Akira by TELUS Health have been providing healthcare in Canada for over 30 years. Akira by TELUS Health is trusted by dozens of Canada’s top employers.
3/ REVIEW THE PLATFORM’S SECURITY FEATURES
Fears surrounding the confidentiality and security of personal health information are at the top of the list of barriers to adoption among those weary of using virtual healthcare apps. All virtual healthcare apps on the market offer some level of security, but not all security features are created equal. Here is a handy checklist of questions to ask when comparing platforms:
- IT and Cybersecurity: what measures are in place to ensure the system and data are protected against software damage, accidental or malicious misuse, and data theft?
- Health Information Privacy: how rigorously is employee personal health information guarded against unauthorized discloser, use, or tampering?
- Staff Expertise: is the provider knowledgeable and experienced in the Canadian rules and regulations surrounding the privacy of health information?
- User Verification: are safeguards in place to verify that the individual accessing the care virtually is the registered owner of the account (eg. photo ID, unique activation link etc.)?
4/ CONSIDER EMPLOYEE ROLLOUT SUPPORT
Taking the “if we build it, they will come” approach is typically met with limited success when it comes to the rollout of new technology in the workplace. Change management can be challenging, especially when it comes to embracing new technology. If you are investing in a new service for your employees you don’t want an onerous onboarding process to delay adoption. Some virtual care providers make onboarding easy, providing employee communication posters, videos, email templates, handouts and other marketing resources – others leave you on your own. Be sure to ask prospective virtual care providers what support and resources they offer when it comes to employee communication and onboarding.
5/ CONSIDER HEALTHCARE INNOVATION CAPABILITY
Virtual health is the future of healthcare, and technological innovation will continue to drive rapid change in how Canadians access and receive healthcare. As chronic disease rates continue to rise, virtual patient monitoring will become even more critical to improving health outcomes and lessoning the burden on our healthcare system. As the next wave of innovations in virtual care platforms emerge – such as integrated fitness trackers, electronic medical records, and home health monitors – look for a virtual care partner that will be at the forefront of healthcare technology innovation.