Posted by Shane Reid on January 31, 2022
The future is always difficult to predict, especially when change is happening at lightning speed. As we turned the calendar to 2022 it seemed as if we were rolling back the clock to March 2020, with the widespread transmission of the Omicron variant, resulting in a return of strict public health and safety measures, event cancellations and business lockdowns.
As murky our crystal balls may be during a global health and economic crisis, we take what’s next in our industry seriously at Medavie Blue Cross. In other words, we are vigilant in staying on top of the trends and analyzing our own data to develop the most relevant, responsive solutions possible for our clients.
With keen attention paid to trends and data analytics, we can confidently say that in addition to COVID-19, mental health, virtual care, and chronic disease will continue to have a major impact on benefit and health management in the year ahead. Here’s our forecast for 2022 to help plan sponsors and advisors guide discussions about benefit plan design and make informed decisions.
The pandemic has fast-tracked market acceptance and adoption of new technologies and innovations in health care. A survey conducted for the Canadian Medical Association found that the vast majority of Canadian doctors (64%) would maintain or increase their use virtual care after the pandemic. We’ve reached the point that solutions like virtual doctor visits and digital psychotherapy, even online physiotherapy, are now essential components of our health care system and health benefit plans.
Digitization of health care offers new ways to engage with plan members, to transact, and to address pain points. Our innovations in the digital health space include:
By putting health care literally at their fingertips, we’re helping to ensure members have timely access to quality care and a seamless experience as we equip them with the tools they need to take charge of their health.
COVID-19-related restrictions have resulted in a steady decline in the mental health of Canadians, which has become known as the echo pandemic. This past November, one in four Canadians indicated to LifeWorks that their personal and work lives had worsened since the pandemic. In December, a study by Mental Health Research Canada found that more than one-third (35%) of working Canadians were experiencing burnout.
Mental health has always been a top priority for Medavie Blue Cross. To help build mental resilience, we have increased the suite of easy-to-access mental health services available through Connected Care. Most recently, we partnered with Petit Bambou to add their meditation app with over 8.5 million users worldwide.
Our comprehensive offering of mental health supports also includes inConfidence, our Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP); My Good Health, our wellness portal and online centre for mental health tools and resources and our Enhanced Mental Health Practitioners benefit that offers members timely access to the expert care of wide range of specialists, with higher maximum options.
Chronic disease remains the biggest driver of health plan costs, while becoming more prevalent since the pandemic, with three in four (72%) members now suffering from a chronic condition and/or chronic pain, as indicated by the 2021 Benefit Canada Healthcare survey. Diabetes, in particular, is one of the fastest growing chronic diseases in Canada with over 11 million people affected.
Medavie Blue Cross is an industry leader in the management of chronic disease, having introduced the first extended health benefit to connect members with professionals in their communities for one-on-one counselling and education services. In 2021, we launched our Diabetes Care Program as a complement to the benefit to help members gain the knowledge and confidence they need to self-manage their condition.
Prior to the pandemic, the average wait time for Canadians, from referral by a general practitioner to consultation and treatment, was 22.6 weeks, according to the Fraser Institute. The pandemic, and the associated pressure placed on Canada’s healthcare system, has only caused these wait times to increase further.
As part of our ongoing efforts to remove barriers to treatment, we partnered with Medical Confidence to offer select plan members on disability a personalized healthcare navigation service that gives them access to a national network of over 27,000 health care professionals.
This not new territory for Medavie Blue Cross. We were one of the first insurers in Canada to offer early-stage psychiatric assessment and care for short-term disability claimants with a mental health diagnosis. Our early intervention service is delivered in partnership with Medaca Health Group and is a key component of our integrated disability management program, along with internet-enabled Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT).
Additionally, we have partnered with have partnered with Pillcheck, a leader in pharmacogenetics testing, to use the predictive insights from DNA analysis to prescribe the best, most effective medications for plan members on a disability claim. This service is also available through Connected Care.
Another mega trend we’re observing is optionality. A study commissioned by Medavie Blue Cross found that over 80% of Canadian companies had added some form of optional benefits (critical illness, AD&D, life insurance) to their employee health plans, and of those who don’t currently offer optional benefits, 90% were open to providing them in the near future. This supports research we uncovered in a survey of working Canadians, which revealed that the vast majority (82%) would struggle financially if critical illness or injury affected their ability to work, but don’t know what to do about it.
Our Optional Benefits platform is designed to help members access additional benefits like critical illness, life and accidental death and dismemberment coverage through a seamless process. With the ability to compare different options, adapt their coverage mix to their budget, and set up monthly payments directly online, we made sure that every participating member can easily access this protection within minutes.
Increasingly, one-size-fits-all benefit plans are being replaced with plans that give employees more choice and control over how they contribute to their wellbeing and spend their benefit dollars. This is fuelled in large part by workplace demographics with five generations now working side by side, with health care needs and expectations as diverse as their life experiences.
To be relevant and responsive to today’s workplace ― and to support their retention and recruitment efforts — we’re helping employers bolster their benefit plans by offering flexible solutions for all budgets that are easy to administer and easy for members to access. Optional Benefits remains a leading choice, as well as customizable benefits like our health and wellness spending accounts that allow members to take charge of their health on their terms.
Read our 2021 in Review for a summary of our product launches and enhancements this past year and explore our comprehensive offering in greater detail throughout this website.
Connect with your Blue Cross representative today to learn more about the options described above.