Technology has come a long way in recent years and is already beginning to reshape virtually every industry there is. Consider how the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), self-driving cars, automation, self-checkouts at grocery stores, fitness wearable devices, and even healthcare has and will continue to affect their respective industries.
Through the use of emerging technologies and telehealth/telemedicine services, the health insurance landscape in Canada is changing. Digital health, sometimes known as e-health, technologies are poised to increase access to care (particularly in rural areas with sparse populations), relieve stress on the Canadian healthcare system, reduce wait times for doctors’ visits, and more!
What is Telehealth and Telemedicine?
First – let’s clarify what telehealth and telemedicine are and if there are any differences between them but to sum things up: telemedicine and telehealth generally refer to technology that allows the remote delivery of healthcare services. This could be through the phone or video conferencing and could provide general health care services, vision care, or even dental care, all from the comfort of your own home.
How Does Telehealth Help Working Canadians?
We alluded to this earlier, but now we ask a more specific question: how will telehealth and telemedicine services transform health care systems in Canada?
Increase access to care. This is particularly useful in rural areas with few available physicians (or sometimes none at all), reducing wait times and increasing the availability of service. After all, if you could consult a physician from your own home at the click of a button – wouldn’t you? The more Canadians receiving better access to healthcare, the better Canada becomes.
Relieve stress on the Canadian healthcare system. Canadians have one of the highest wait times to see a physician in the world, with 1 out of 5 Canadians reporting waiting 7 or more days to see a family doctor. The increased ease of access and availability of telehealth allows Canadians to get the answers they need faster and more reliably, and reduce wait times in doctor’s offices.
It provides the same level of care at a fraction of the cost. A virtual visit generally costs less than an in-person visit, especially when you factor in additional time driving to and from the doctor’s office and money spent on gas. Though Canadian healthcare is free, it’s important to remember that “free” doesn’t always mean free. Canadian taxpayer’s dollars go towards paying for our healthcare system, so less expensive doctor’s visits free that valuable taxpayer money for other pursuits important to Canadians.
Enables continuous and ongoing care. Telehealth isn’t likely to become a replacement for in-person doctor’s visits entirely – far from it – but it will work in tandem with them. Doctor’s will be able to prescribe medications or exercises, and use telehealth services to monitor adherence, share information, or adjust treatments in between in-person visits. This, in turn, will provide better patient outcomes overall and provide a level of continuous care and service that 3 week wait times can’t match.
Provides an easily accessible and dynamic electronic health record. In utilizing online care, all of your information and medical records can be easily accessed by yourself and your physician. Electronic health records can also be updated with ease, ensuring that your physician is working with the most accurate and up-to-date information available.
Telehealth Services in Employee Benefits
Increasingly, telehealth services are becoming a part of a health insurance plan or as a part of group benefits offered through employers. For example, Green Shield Canada (GSC) has a number of digital health solutions designed to provide greater access and engagement between employees and their health benefits, such as BEACON or Coach Ivan.
These types of digital solutions focus primarily on acute, non-urgent care, though an increasing number of services are extending to ongoing, chronic care and disease management. These trends were discussed at length on a recent webinar we held with Tim Clarke, President tc Health Consulting Inc., called, “Telemedicine in Canada: What Advisors and Their Clients Need to Know.”
Provincial Health and Telehealth Resources
Every province in Canada has its own healthcare system, and therefore its own covered services and resources. Although talk of a national pharmacare program is anticipated in the upcoming 2019 federal election, for now, provincial coverage is piecemeal. To view the resources available in BC, visit https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/services-and-resources/about-8-1-1.
Borrowed from BBD Blog, “Provincial Telehealth Resources: An Interactive Map of Canada”, August 27, 2019. https://www.bbd.ca/blog/telehealth-resources-canada/