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The next wave of telemedicine is here

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The Case for Virtual Healthcare in Canada

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When it comes to virtual healthcare in Canada, a great divide exists between current demand for it (71%) and its current rate of adoption (9%).

Moreover, of the systemic problems Canadians face when interacting with public healthcare, virtual care — 24/7 access to medical professionals from anywhere in the world via a mobile device — is a tangible solution for most. Robust telemedicine platforms are operating with remarkable results, yet only a small fraction of Canadians have access to this technology.

Herein lies a significant opportunity for those in Canada — namely employers, human resource directors and corporate benefits advisors — with the ability to affect powerful change through the adoption of these programs.



USA Leading Adoption

South of the border, the virtual healthcare picture is much brighter; consumer usage doubled between 2016 and 2017 and about half of the workers now have access to this solution. In the United Kingdom, an early adopter of virtual care thanks to government-supported telemedicine and telehealth programs, penetration of tech-supported care is the highest per capita in the over 65 categories of any global market.

Fortunately, leading health technology experts to predict that the digital health care revolution will experience marked growth this year and beyond, fueled by increased institutional interest in improving patient engagement and cutting costs thanks to virtual health.

reality of healthcare in Canada today:

  • 20% of Canadians wait 7+ days to see their doctors
  • 61% of family doctors say they can’t accommodate urgent appointments
  • 40,000 Canadians visit an ER every year just to renew prescriptions
  • 68% of Canadians skip or avoid medical appointments due to barriers like long wait times
  • Canadians take 2-6 days off per year for doctors visits; those with kids take double
  • Only 9% of Canadian employers currently offer it


Virtual Care Industry Report


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As stakeholders, we must leverage the opportunities generated by our technology-enabled environment too ptimize the delivery of healthcare to Canadians – and virtual healthcare is a vehicle for this change.

Dr. Sheldon Elman, Founder, Medisys Health Group

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Virtual Healthcare Background: Failure to Launch

Despite revolutionary transformation across most Canadian industries over the past decade as a result of technological innovation and adoption, such change has not reached Canada’s public healthcare system — an industry that affects every Canadian.

Seven years ago the Conference Board of Canada published its concern about the nation’s public care system in a report called The Inconvenient Truths About Canadian Healthcare, noting its failure to effectively utilize innovative virtual health technologies and modern management tools to enhance efficiency.

What marked telemedicine improvements have we seen since then? In short: not enough.

At the August 2018 Canadian Medical Association Health Summit, Brian Brodie, Chair of the CMA’s Board of Directors, warned: “We, the established stakeholders, the providers, the payers, and the policymakers, have been slow and a bit resistant to being disrupted...the whole principle of disruptive innovation says that if I keep doing what I’ve done before to get me here, it will ultimately lead to my demise. So I have to unlearn, and adapt to the changing world.”

Unfortunately, barriers like long wait times and difficulty taking time off work for medical appointments continue to lead many Canadians to delay or avoid seeking medical care altogether, while many of the 4.5-million Canadian residents who don’t have family doctors turn to crowded clinics or emergency rooms for routine issues.

This is the reality of medical care in Canada today, yet It is estimated that up to 70% of visits to ERs or clinics can be replaced by virtual medical consultations without any impact on the quality of care.

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The next wave of telemedicine

The need for virtual medical care may be clear, but are Canadians willing to trade some in-person visits with their physicians for on-screen consults? Are they ready to embrace the next wave of telemedicine?

In late 2018, Medisys Health Group commissioned the Canadian Virtual Healthcare Study to assess attitudes toward tech-enabled health care services, and the results speak for themselves:

  • 2 in 3 Canadians would use online healthcare if it was provided in their employee benefits plan
  • 71% of Canadians are willing to trade some of their current benefits for an online care solution
  • 67% of Millennials want access to online healthcare
  • 69% of parents and caregivers want online access
  • 70% of those dealing with chronic health conditions want remote healthcare app access
  • 1 in 3 Canadians say they would co-pay for access to online care services



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Unsurprisingly, study participants indicated that the biggest benefits of virtual medical care are access to care during late hours and weekends (67%), convenience (66%), avoiding increasing wait times at urgent health care during late hours for minor health problems (62%), less time missed at work (47%), more regular visits with a healthcare professional (45%) and less stress (29%).

Still, only 9% of Canadian employers currently offer virtual healthcare services to their employees.

In another recent survey conducted by IPSOS, Canada’s leading provider of public opinion research, 69% of Canadians surveyed indicated that they would use virtual healthcare in lieu of or to complement in-office visits.


Virtual Health Care Study

The Canadian Virtual Healthcare Study, commissioned by Medisys Health Group and conducted in collaboration with Edelman through the LegerWeb Panel, was infield between August 28 and September 4, 2018, and surveyed 1,501 full-time and part-time employed Canadians with employee benefit plans, 18 years or older, and living outside of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The survey was offered in English and French. Results have been reported with a margin of error of +/- 2.5% at a 95% confidence interval.


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The Corporate Advantage of Virtual Healthcare

Is virtual healthcare worth the investment for employers?

In today’s competitive talent pool, understanding employees’ motivations and expectations is critical to business success — and research shows that employees are looking for customizable, prevention-focused benefits programs that save time, achieve work-life balance and provide quick healthcare solutions for their families.

With average smartphone screen time increasing by 60% over the past three years and 72% of smartphone users currently monitoring their health through their phones, it’s not surprising that most Canadian employees want access to telemedicine and virtual care services to supplement in-person visits with their doctors.

But responsible companies also provide health benefits to protect the bottom line: each year, health-related employee absenteeism equates to an estimated $16-billion or more in direct lost revenue to Canadian employers. With people taking 2 - 6 days off per year for physician-related visits (double that figure for Canadians with kids), and each five-minute visit taking approximately two hours of time from the workplace, the financial benefits of virtual healthcare equate to thousands of dollars in savings per employee annually, thanks largely to reduced absenteeism.

Many employees also feel the need to make up for missed time by working nights and weekends, which can be a significant contributing factor to stress-related issues. Furthermore, it is estimated that 60% of absenteeism is stress-related, and the direct cost of stress to employers is roughly $600 per employee or $3.5-million annually for a typical large employer. Of course, we know that stressed-out, sleep-deprived employees also make poorer business decisions than those whose mental health is prioritized.

Ultimately, while companies are investing significant resources into providing health benefits to their workforces, there’s a major gap between what’s being offered and what employees want and need. According to a new Harvard Business School report, this disparity is resulting in “companies incur(ring) millions of dollars of hidden costs due to employee turnover, loss of institutional knowledge, and temporary hiring, in addition to substantial productivity costs such as absenteeism and presenteeism.”