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Virtual healthcare 101: everything you need to know about telemedicine

By Medisys on March 08 2019 | News, Virtual Healthcare

Imagine getting medical attention the moment you need it, anywhere in the world. Picture having a migraine during a busy workday, a sports injury on a Saturday or suspecting an infection while you’re overseas, and being able to connect instantly with a nurse or doctor. Envision receiving a diagnosis, a prescription or a referral in minutes — without spending hours in a waiting room. That’s virtual healthcare, and it’s quickly becoming a reality for Canadians.

Although only 9% of Canadian employers currently offer virtual care as part of their employee benefits packages, 71% of Canadians are demanding it.[1] South of the border, consumer usage of virtual healthcare doubled between 2016 and 2017 and about half of workers now have access to it.[2] Fortunately, experts predict that increased institutional interest in improving patient engagement and cutting costs will continue to propel this digital healthcare revolution forward in 2019.[3]


While patient convenience is the obvious victory of virtual healthcare, employers, doctors, nurses, caregivers and healthcare administrators also stand to benefit significantly from its adoption.

 

REQUEST MORE INFORMATION ABOUT VIRTUAL CARE SERVICES

 

What is Virtual Healthcare?

A term often used interchangeably with telemedicine or telehealth, virtual healthcare is the process of delivering real-time medical care via a mobile device.

While telemedicine technically refers to the process of diagnosing and treating common ailments remotely, virtual care takes it further with on-demand access to a broad range of technologies and non-clinical care services. Think mental health support and chronic disease management in addition to primary care.


Medisys On-Demand

Robust virtual healthcare platforms like Medisys On-Demand are currently operating with remarkable results. It not only provides ultimate convenience and continuity of care, but also offers solutions for many of the systemic problems Canadians face with traditional healthcare. Consider these realities:

  • 20% of Canadians wait 7+ days to see their doctors
  • 61% of family doctors say they can't accommodate urgent appointments
  • 5-million Canadian residents don’t have family doctors
  • 40,000 Canadians visit an ER every year just to renew prescriptions
  • Canadians take 2-6 days off work per year for doctors visits; those with kids take double

And yet, studies show that 70% of ER and clinic visits can be replaced by virtual consultations without any impact on care quality.[4] 

 

In the news. Canada is lagging behind many other countries in the adoption of virtual care. To look at what’s standing in the way, the CMA is joining forces with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and
the College of Family Physicians of Canada as part of a new task force. To read the full article, click here.

 

How Does Virtual Care Benefit Patients?

Virtual care doesnt just provide patients with more convenient care, it offers healthcare on-demand to suit the ever-changing needs of Canadians and their families. The Canadian Virtual Healthcare Study[5] recently revealed what Canadians care about most when it comes to the benefits of virtual healthcare:

  • access to care during late hours and weekends (67%)
  • convenience (66%)
  • avoiding increasing wait times in emergency rooms during late hours for minor health problems (62%)
  • less time missed at work (47%)
  • more regular visits with a healthcare professional (45%)
  • less stress (29%)

For patients with chronic conditions, mobility issues, those living in remote areas and those who require specialist visits, the benefits of virtual care are even greater.

Instead of incurring steep travel and time costs to keep inconvenient appointments, virtual care allows many patients with chronic illnesses to conduct follow up consults at home. This often empowers patients to become more active participants in their own care, improving healthcare continuity and overall outcomes.[6]


While accessing specialists has been historically difficult for those living in remote parts of Canada, virtual care has been shown to reduce wait times to see a specialist by 30% to 50%.[7]


Read our Virtual Healthcare Industry Report for more information

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How Does Virtual Healthcare Benefit Physicians and Caregivers?


The benefits of virtual healthcare to physicians and other caregivers are staggering. Supplementing just one patient visit per year with a virtual consult may save primary care physicians an average of five minutes per appointment, freeing up 47.8 million hours across the primary care workforce[8] to see additional patients and accommodate urgent appointments.

Efficiency for medical professionals is another byproduct of virtual care: since 68% of Canadians skip or avoid appointments due to barriers like long wait times, virtual care can reduce the prevalence of missed appointments, saving time and reducing administrative headaches for providers.[9]

With patients better able to book appointments around their schedules, physicians also experience better access to their patients, and both sides enjoy greater continuity of care.

Ultimately, effective virtual care has the power to:

  • Remove barriers to traditional care for patients
  • Reduce strain on Canada’s healthcare system
  • Improve efficiency for healthcare providers
  • Empower Canadians to become more engaged in their health

Fortunately, Canadian companies are increasingly considering the benefits of adding virtual care solutions like Medisys On-Demand to their health benefits offerings. 

 

How Does Virtual Care Benefit Employees

Virtual care  provides employees the avenue to quickly see a doctor for themselves or their child, without taking time off work. In a recent market survey, 47% of respondents said virtual care would help them take less time off work. Easy access to healthcare professionals can help diagnose both mental and physical issues before they become long term problems.

 

Virtual Healthcare Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): 

 

Are you allowed to share personal virtual care accounts between friend and relatives?

Virtual care apps take security and privacy seriously. Most apps are secured, and with Medisys On-Demand, users are required to authenticate their accounts with a picture ID. When a prescription is written, a video consult is required to confirm the user’s identity and the prescription is written in the user’s name only. Within your Medisys On-Demand account, you can invite your family members to use the service, but your partner requires his or her own app, account and user authentication. Children over 14 can also have their own accounts, with your agreement. No personal information is shared within families to guarantee that each account holder can consult privately and address highly-personal issues.

 

Is virtual care only useful for common health issues like colds?

Virtual care goes beyond common health issues. For many users, it helps manage a variety of conditions such as assessing injuries, dealing with anxiety and depression, managing chronic conditions and other more complex health problems. 

 

Is virtual care only useful for people living in remote locations?

Although yes it is a highly effective tool for those living in remote locations, it also can be looked as a lifesaving technology for those without easy access to a doctor. Virtual care benefits everyone as it allows people to: Save time: 90% of ER visits in Canada in 2016 took 7.8 hours to complete. Improve continuity of care: 68% of Canadians skip or avoid medical appointments due to barriers like long wait times. Receive private health advice for sensitive issues from the comfort of your home: more than 60% of people with mental health illness don’t seek the help they need, often because of the stigma or perceived stigma around seeking help. Seek medical attention without having to wait for an appointment at the doctor’s office. 

 

What are virtual visits?

Imagine getting medical attention the moment you need it, anywhere in the world. Picture having a migraine during a busy workday, a sports injury on a Saturday or suspecting an infection while you’re overseas, and being able to connect instantly with a nurse or doctor. Envision receiving a diagnosis, a prescription or a referral in minutes — without spending hours in a waiting room. That’s virtual healthcare, and it’s quickly becoming a reality for Canadians.

 

Can a virtual doctor prescribe medicine?

Yes, each prescription is given out by a doctor over Medisys On-Demand, and sent directly to a pharmacy of your choice where it’s filled. Virtual care doctors are held to the same standard as brick and-mortar doctors, which means they are just as aware of the problems surrounding the over-prescription of antibiotics and work to find the best solution for each of their patients.

 

What is Medisys-On-Demand?

Medisys On Demand is a virtual healthcare platform that provides 24/7, personalized medical support to your employees and their family members allowing them to connect instantly with nurses and doctors via secure text and video chat.

 

What is the difference between telehealth and virtual healthcare?

A term often used interchangeably with telemedicine or telehealth, virtual healthcare is the process of delivering real-time medical care via a mobile device. While telemedicine technically refers to the process of diagnosing and treating common ailments remotely, virtual care takes it further with on-demand access to a broad range of technologies and non-clinical care services. Think mental health support and chronic disease management in addition to primary care.

 

Does Virtual Care help employers save time and money?

Yes, Canadians without children take up to six days off for doctors appointments, while those with kids take up to 12 days. Implementing an on-demand virtual doctor in-place helps mitigate those issues by providing the same help a patient would've needed to take days off for at the house or workplace instead.

 

Is Virtual Healthcare a solution to the growing mental health issues?

New research shows that 90% of mental health services can be delivered virtually. Unfortunately, Canadians still feel insecure about the stigma of seeking mental health support that they feel uncomfortable opening up to their employers. A virtual care system at the workplace can help with these potential problems by providing convenient and confidential mental health consultations.

 

 

[1] Vivien Brown (2019), Medisys Health Group, How Virtual Care is Reshaping the Future of Canadian Benefits Programs, retrieved from:  https://blog.medisys.ca/virtual-care-canadian-healthcare

[2] PwC Healthcare, Making Care Mobile, retrieved from: www.pwc.com/ca/en/industries/healthcare.html

[3] Greg Licholai (2019), Forbes, Digital Healthcare Growth Drivers In 2019, retrieved from: www.forbes.com

[4] Truven Health Analytics (2013), Avoidable Emergency Department Usage Analysis, retrieved from: www.truvenhealth.com

[5] Vivien Brown (2019), Medisys Health Group, How Virtual Care is Reshaping the Future of Canadian Benefits Programs, retrieved from:  https://blog.medisys.ca/virtual-care-canadian-healthcare

[6] Lee Horner (2018), Healthcare Innovation, How Virtual Care is Improving Access and Affordability of Healthcare, retrieved from: https://www.hcinnovationgroup.com/policy-value-based-care/article/13030904/how-virtual-care-is-improving-access-and-affordability-of-healthcare

[7] Vivien Brown (2019), Medisys Health Group, How Virtual Care is Reshaping the Future of Canadian Benefits Programs, retrieved from:  https://blog.medisys.ca/virtual-care-canadian-healthcare

[8] Harvard Business Review (2018), Virtual Health Care Could Save the U.S. Billions Each Year, retrieved from: www.hbr.org

[9] Harvard Business Review (2018), Virtual Health Care Could Save the U.S. Billions Each Year, retrieved from: www.hbr.org