'It's important to simplify the access; it's really important to work on prevention'
Digital health care ramped up dramatically during the pandemic, making many employees less likely to leave their employer.
And a new study finds that, on average, $52 can be saved for every consultation that would otherwise take place through public care.
And the benefits of virtual care add up to $18 per consultation for employers because that individual does not lose time, saves on the delay of appointment; along with a benefit of $10 per consultation for that individual, according to Richard Fahey, vice-president and partner of AppEco Analytics in Montreal, who created the study, The Economic Impact of Telemedicine in Canada for Sun Life and Dialogue, a virtual healthcare and wellness platform.
The report quantified the impact on the public health system with a savings as much as $1 billion per year for government resulting from the adoption of telemedicine platforms by 2025.
The study analyzed the various ways of accessing health care in Canada and it pegged $202 for a visit to an emergency department in a hospital, and $44 per consultation with a doctor or other clinician, as well as virtual care appointments.
The study illustrates how virtual care can become an important part of Canada’s health system, says Fahey.
“The beauty of the Dialogue platform, and the Lumino platform from Sun Life, is the fact that they don’t actually charge the provinces or the federal government for the actual service. So whenever an employer uses, buys, offers that telemedicine service to their benefits, the cost is borne by the employer and when there was a clinical interaction via telemedicine, that interaction does not generate a cost on the public health sector.”
“There’s a direct benefit for the public sector, in terms of a reduction of a consultation that would have otherwise taken place in a clinic, and/or at the ED [emergency department],” he says.
For Dialogue, offering employees virtual care is a great way to take pressure of the public health system and provide a net benefit to employers in many ways, says Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, COO of Dialogue in Montreal.
“We believe this is really important because we want to respect the Canadian Health Care Act and be free for the patient, and Canadians, so employers are paying for it and with this investment, we realized with this study that the government is saving about $52 per consultation every time someone comes on the platform, and right now we’re doing over 15,000 consultation every single week. We’re seeing a huge saving for the government.”
But the implementation of virtual care with Dialogue also brings a direct return on investment of 32 per cent, found the study.
“As an employer, they have come to realize that it was important for them to invest not only because that shows that they care about employees, so that helps with talent, attraction and retention. But moreover, in terms of economic impact and return on investment, this is quite important because that increased productivity on average, we see that people that are using our services are saving over four hours in terms of time versus going to an appointment, whether a walk in clinic or an ER,” says Guillemette.
As an example, Guillemette spoke about a parent who wakes up and finds out their child has a disturbing rash and needs immediate attention. In the public health-care system, that parent would have to go the doctor and book time off from work.
“With Dialogue, they wake up at 6:30 or 7 a.m. they book an appointment, they see a doctor by eight; the prescription is sent to the pharmacy on their way to school or daycare, they pick up the prescription, they apply it and the kids go to school or to daycare and they go to work and that type of saving that we’re seeing in terms of productivity on an employer point-of-view,” says Guillemette.
Jean-Nicolas Guillemette and Richard Fahey
Mental health benefits
In addition, virtual care is a great boon to the mental health of employees, he says.
“Seven per cent of our consultations in January 2020 were around mental health; now it’s over 30 per cent. The biggest challenge for employers over the next five years is around the mental health of their employees and we know that it’s tough to have access to rapid care on the mental health in the public system.”
By accessing mental health care instantly, hopefully this will help reduce the stigma, says Guillemette by providing instant access to a professionals.
For HR professionals, offering a one-stop technological system can become a great attraction and retention tool.
“It’s important to simplify the access; it’s really important to work on prevention. This is something that will change the life of people in terms of leaves of absence, short-term and long-term disability.”
Younger workers are embracing the digital care aspects, especially when it comes to mental health supports, according to another expert.