July 2, 2019
Virtual Health Care
While technological advances have made claiming health care expenses quick and easy, getting access to health care professionals in the first place can still be a challenge. Enter virtual health care.
Using text messaging, video and/or audio chats, patients can easily access a health care professional when it is convenient for them. Patients can be diagnosed, issued a prescription, be sent for further tests, or referred to specialized practitioners all without having to take time off work to wait for hours in a crowded walk-in clinic waiting room. It can even be accessed from out of the country.
In an age where technology is accessible by the masses and the health care system is stressed, virtual health care makes sense.
- 5 million Canadians over age 12 do not have a regular doctor
- 40,000 Canadians visited an ER last year to renew a prescription
- Access to care in remote areas is poor
- Average worker takes 2-6 days off each year just for medical appointments – this number is double for those with children
- Absenteeism costs the Canadian economy $16.6 billion per year in lost productivity
Virtual health care is not designed to replace the advice and care of a family doctor, but rather provide a new access point for conditions that may not require a face-to-face visit. Patients can access a doctor when and where it is convenient for them. If a presenting case is beyond what can be addressed remotely, the doctor will advise the patient to see their family doctor, go to a walk-in clinic, or if necessary, go to an emergency room/call an ambulance.
The scope of treatment can include such conditions as mental health, pregnancy related questions, cold/flu, skin irritations, sexual health, allergies, minor injuries, etc.
Virtual health care is relatively new to the Canadian market but from those that have used it, we know:
- Virtual health is most frequently accessed by 24-45 year olds
- 88% of presenting cases are resolved without the need for an in-person visit
- 91% of patients in BC who accessed virtual care felt that their concern was appropriately addressed
- 87% reported that virtual care avoided a workplace absence
What to look for in a virtual care provider
- Access to health care teams to allow for specialized treatment from the outset;
- Mental health treatment and resources;
- Follow up care – ex. reminders of prescription refills, follow up to ensure adherence to treatment plan, follow up to address side effects of treatment;
- Health care system navigation – the Canadian health care system can be disjointed but a virtual care provider should be able to assist in navigating it;
- Secure records storage in Canada – so that data is protected by Canadian privacy laws that are much more stringent than other countries;
- Bi-lingual or multi-lingual service;
- Coverage for employees and their family members.
Recognizing that virtual health care can reduce employee absenteeism/presenteeism, provide employees needed access to timely health care, and reduce health care and disability costs, more and more employers are opting to add virtual health care to their benefit plans.
If you are interested in exploring virtual health care for your own benefit plan, your GMS Insurance representative can assist.
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