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Doubling down on virtual care for employee wellbeing

Virtual care · Mar 18, 2021

Over the past year, the pandemic has put a spotlight on healthcare delivery, and led to an increased focus on virtual care and its role in supporting various aspects of Canadians’ health and wellbeing. 

Adoption of this innovative technology has grown exponentially, with public health systems leveraging new tools and services to ensure Canadians can continue to receive care where and when they need it.

“Demand for virtual care options -- from both public health leaders and employers -- skyrocketed overnight,” says Francois Gratton, Group President of TELUS and Chair of TELUS Health and TELUS Québec. “In the face of the pandemic, continuous and reliable access to healthcare support is critical. That’s why we have been working tirelessly to accelerate the development of our innovative solutions and deliver high-quality virtual care services that truly address the needs of Canadians.”

As we approach the one year mark of social distancing and remote work, businesses must also consider the pandemic’s ongoing impact on their people and what they can do to provide the right kind of support.

An estimated 28.6 per cent of Canadians  are currently working from home leading to reduced employee morale and elevated stress levels. In fact, according to a recent study by Morneau Shepell, 28 per cent of individuals have considered leaving their jobs since 2020, and the most reported reason for this is increased mental stress at work.

With strong correlations between mental wellbeing and physical health, many employers have turned to virtual care solutions that address health concerns in a timely and reliable manner. As employees navigate these challenging times, here are some ways virtual care can support them now and in the future.

Accessible Mental Health Support

Remote work arrangements have made it increasingly difficult for employees to maintain sufficient work-life balance. Many are finding it challenging to disconnect from work to dedicate time to family, friends and extra-curricular activities. For parents especially, the pressure to perform at work while caring for children and supporting at-home learning activities, is taking a significant toll on their mental well-being. 

As a result of these and many other factors, working Canadians across the country are experiencing prolonged feelings of loneliness and isolation. The Morneau Shepell study found that working Canadians felt higher personal and workplace isolation levels since the pandemic. Similarly, in December 2020, Mental Health Research Canada  reported that Canadians’ current anxiety level is four times as high as pre-outbreak levels. This ongoing mental anguish can then lead to reduced productivity, fatigue and burnout.

With increased need for mental health support and COVID-19 restrictions reducing options for some in-person care, virtual care has brought options that enable direct access to mental health counsellors, psychiatrists, and other healthcare professionals, allowing individuals to undergo assessments and receive personalized care plans. Others also provide resources that help build resilience such as stress management and mindfulness practices that may help employees address mental health challenges before they reach a point of crisis.

The convenience offered by virtual mental health services has even resulted in better treatment adherence. According to Martin Papillon, employee benefits expert and CEO of AGA Benefits solutions, those receiving psychological support virtually were more likely to follow and complete their treatment plan when compared to those receiving treatment in person.

“Virtual care has been a true game changer for employee health benefits,” says Papillon. “Delivering health services directly to employees has empowered them to play a more active role in their care and encouraged them to follow treatment plans more closely. We’re seeing that today with virtual psychotherapy and we’re likely to see the same with other primary and allied healthcare services moving forward.”

On-Demand Care - 24/7

With virtual care options, employees and their families can have timely and convenient access to secure consultations with a healthcare professional right through their mobile devices. Healthcare professionals can provide medical advice, offer a diagnosis, prescribe treatments, facilitate referrals, and order tests as needed. 

Recently, some virtual care providers have even begun expanding their offerings to include access to allied health services such as physiotherapy and nutrition support. The broad range of services offered through a single convenient and collaborative platform with the support of a dedicated team can help address various aspects of an employee’s health in a coordinated and integrated manner, supporting the continuity of their care.

Virtual consultations can be booked instantly. Not only does this allow employees to schedule appointments when it’s convenient for them but also enables them to address health concerns immediately, reducing the risk of complications or worsening conditions. 

Securing future business growth

There is also a strong business case for providing virtual care options to employees. Enabling individuals to address health concerns quickly and play a more active role in their own care can contribute to long-term wellness, reducing the likelihood of high prescription drug and other eligible healthcare costs in the future. 

Including virtual care as part of employees benefits packages shows commitment to staff’s continued well-being, which working Canadians greatly appreciate during these trying times. In a recent survey, 57 per cent of employees noted their opinion of an organization is influenced by how its employees were treated during the pandemic. 

With virtual visits up by 5,600 per cent since the beginning of the pandemic and three-quarters of Canadians willing to use virtual care even after the pandemic is over, it’s safe to say that this technological advancement is here to stay. And the possibilities for Canadian employers are endless.

After all, a business’ most valuable asset is its people, and forward-thinking organizations would do well to invest in resources that keep their employees healthy and engaged -- both physically and mentally. A thoughtful benefits plan that meets the needs of today’s employees could be exactly what attracts and retains good talent, motivates staff and helps set a company up for success.                                                                                                                                               

TELUS Health is committed to supporting Canadians employers and their people with integrated digital health and health benefits solutions that help foster a healthy and productive workplace. We offer a full suite of virtual care services that enable timely and convenient access to care where and when working Canadians need it most.