New study shows Canadian employees demanding virtual healthcare to bypass barriers to traditional care

Medisys Health Group Inc.
December 07, 2018
Written by Medisys Health Group Inc.
A new study commissioned by Medisys Health Group, in collaboration with Edelman and LegerWeb, reveals that Canadian employees are demanding healthcare at their fingertips — apps that let individuals connect directly and instantly with nurse practitioners, physicians and other health professionals through secure text and video chat, anytime and anywhere.

"Average smart phone usage has increased by 60% over the past three years — this coupled with ongoing access barriers and supply and demand challenges within our healthcare system makes it clear why Canadians are looking to supplement traditional doctor's office visits with virtual consults," said Dr. Vivien Brown, Vice President, Medical Affairs, Medisys Corporate Health.

The Medisys virtual health study, which surveyed more than 1,500 Canadian employees, revealed the following:
  • 2 in 3 Canadians would use virtual care if it was provided in their employee benefit plan
  • 71% of Canadians are willing to trade off current benefits for improved access to healthcare professionals and technology-supported services like virtual care
  • Virtual care is most appealing to parents and caregivers (69%), those dealing with chronic health conditions (70%) and Millennials (67%)
  • Only 9% of employee benefit plans currently include virtual care coverage
  • Participants said the biggest benefits of virtual care are access to care during late hours and weekends (67%), convenience (66%), avoiding increasing wait times at urgent 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%).
But it's not just employees who stand to benefit from virtual healthcare. With Canadians taking 2-6 days off per year for physician-related visits, according to research published in Benefits Canada, and each five-minute visit taking approximately two hours of time from the workplace, the financial benefit of virtual care equates to thousands of dollars in savings per employee annually, attributed solely to reduced absenteeism.

When considering employee wellness, virtual healthcare also poses a significant mental health advantage. Apps that include mental health services may encourage employees to seek help with mental and emotional health issues where they wouldn't have otherwise; out-of-pocket costs along with stigma and lack of time make it difficult for Canadians to prioritize mental and emotional health.

According to Statistics Canada, 4.5-million Canadian residents do not have family doctors, and those who do cannot always get appointments when needed. Twenty per cent of Canadians wait seven or more days to see their doctor, while 61% of family doctors say they can't accommodate urgent same-day or next-day appointments, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Forty thousand Canadians visit an ER every year just to renew prescriptions, and typically wait over four hours to see a physician — yet studies show 70% of visits to ERs or clinics can be replaced by online consultations without any impact on the quality of care.

Further research is available here.

The study, commissioned by Medisys Health Group and conducted in collaboration with Edelman through the LegerWeb Panel, was in field 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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