Building a highway to wellness with virtual care.

The insurance industry is no stranger to the reality that close to 24 million Canadians rely heavily on their employer’s healthcare benefit plans to complement their and their family’s healthcare needs. In fact, 84 per cent of Canadians believe that employers have a responsibility to support the physical health of their employees, while 86 per cent feel the same about psychological health.

Providing access to quality care is incredibly important, given the number of Canadians facing chronic health issues, including mental health challenges. A 2018 study by Sanofi Canada, for example, revealed gaps in how employees feel they are able to manage their chronic conditions. The survey found that 58 per cent of workers have at least one chronic disease. In the face of this, barely half of the employees surveyed said their health benefit plans meet their needs extremely or very well.

The same study found that 47 per cent of the plan members surveyed had missed work or found it harder to do their jobs because of a chronic illness, up from 38 per cent in 2016.

Virtual visits: portable care and a strong business case for employers and insurers

In the face of higher demand and ensuing costs, what can insurers and employers do? A recent survey commissioned by the Medisys Health Group and conducted by Edelman sheds light on how virtual care makes a strong case in promoting healthier workplaces while delivering a strong ROI from both a cost and efficiency perspective.

While only 9% of Canadian employers today offer virtual care as part of their health benefits packages, two out of three Canadian employees would use virtual care if it was provided in their employee benefit plan, and nearly three out of four (71%) are willing to trade some of their current health benefits for technology-supported services like virtual care.

A third (31%) of employees surveyed indicated that they would pay more (co-pay) for access to virtual care services if offered as part of their health benefits program, and two in five Canadian employees surveyed (39%) indicated that they would pay more for access to additional health services including mental health, wellness programs and virtual care combined. Millennials were the most willing (49%) to pay more for additional health services. Not surprisingly, Millennials were among the highest prospective users of virtual care services, with 67% surveyed saying they would use employer-sponsored virtual care today, followed closely by parents and caregivers at 69% and those dealing with chronic health conditions at 70%.

The gateway to a healthier, present and less stressed workforce?

According to the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI), forty thousand Canadians visit an ER each year and 70% of those visits could be replaced by online consultations without any impact on the quality of care. When faced with the reality that 61% of family doctors in Canada cannot accommodate same-day or urgent appointments (CIHI), virtual visits represent a viable option that could contribute to relieving the demand across the care continuum as a whole.

When asked about the biggest benefits of virtual care, the Medisys Health Group survey participants quote missing less work (47%), less stress (29%) and avoiding the wait at the emergency room for minor health problems (62%). But it’s not just employees who stand to benefit from virtual healthcare. Employers can benefit from reduced absenteeism and most importantly, in the case of stress and mental health conditions, encourage employees to seek help earlier.

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