Why Digital Health? Let Us Count the Reasons
A 2019 survey of senior decision makers by Mercer found that more than half of Canadian employers (54%) were likely to invest more in digital health over the next five years.
Why is digital health important? Let us count the ways.
Employees want easier, faster access to expert care
Employees are expecting to receive the same 24/7, on-demand service from their health benefit and health care providers as they do when they bank online or stream movies and music.
Enter digital tools like virtual doctor visits – the modern version of house calls. By logging on to a digital platform, patients can skip the wait line and get professional medical attention from the comfort and privacy of their home.
A 2019 Virtual Healthcare Industry report by the Medisys Health Group found that 71% of Canadian employees would be willing to give up other benefits in order to get access to online consults – revealing a major gap in demand and supply with only 9% of Canadian employers offering virtual care as part of their group benefit package.
Digital health responds to changing workforce needs
Canada’s working population now spans five generations with health benefit needs as diverse as their demographics. This calls for cross-generational plans that are embedded with technology-enabled health solutions and seamless end-to-end processes that are as intuitive as online shopping – all part of our modern experience economy.
This is especially true for younger generations like the millennials who now make up the largest share of the workforce at 10 million and counting. Millennials are digital natives who require an evolved health benefit package that puts self-service options at their fingertips and offers mobile health portals to view medical records and schedule appointments, live chat with customer support, and timely reminder texts.
Employers who want their health benefits to be relevant and responsive to today’s workforce realities – and to support their recruitment and retention efforts – should consider adding digital health benefit options to their plans.
Online care is as effective as in-person care
According to a poll conducted for the Canadian Medical Association, 70% of Canadians would take advantage of virtual physician visits, and an even higher percentage (75%) believe new technologies can solve issues in our health care system.
There’s plenty of clinical evidence to support this view. A study by Truven Health Analytics found that approximately 70% of ER and clinic visits could be replaced by virtual consultations without any impact on quality of care.
This has major implications for our public health care system and our economy. As an alternative or complement to traditional face-to-face medicine, digital health can help ease the burden on our health care institutions and reduce brick and mortar costs.
Digital health offers return on investment
There’s a compelling business case to be made for investing in digital health. Studies show that employers who add Internet-enabled health care to their benefit plan can incur significant cost savings in health-related absenteeism and productivity.
Medisys calculated that a mid-size company could recover more than 2,600 hours of productivity and save $174,000 if even half of their employees use virtual care. Those savings balloon to over 9,800 hours and $673,000 for larger organizations.
As more and more employers see the measureable difference digital health can make to organizational performance and, most importantly, health outcomes, we expect the adoption of new health technologies will continue to gain momentum in Canada.
Digital health removes barriers to care
Advances in health care technologies have resulted in innovative solutions like Internet-delivered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT), which allows employees to receive counselling from a licensed therapist, using their computer or mobile device – anywhere, anytime.
This service helps to remove the barriers that prevent 60% of Canadians struggling with mental health issues from seeking the expert help they need: geography, inconvenience, stigma and lack of access to a mental health professional.
Given that wait times to see a psychiatrist can stretch up to 50 weeks in some parts of Canada, while demand for their services skyrockets, the advent of online mental health care couldn’t be more timely or important.
Digital health promotes self-care
M-health technologies (the “m” representing mobile) like mobile apps and wearable sensors have the built-in functionalities to reduce risk behaviours and develop healthy habits – critical steps in preventing or delaying the onset of chronic disease.
As of March 2018, IQVIA estimated there were over 318,000 health apps on the market, with about one-quarter dedicated to chronic disease management. These apps help allow Canadians to manage their health care – on their own terms – while reducing the incidence of chronic disease and related conditions.
Given that 45% of Generation Xers and almost 66% of baby boomers have one or more chronic conditions, according to a recent study by Lockton, this is another digital health option employers should consider to stem the growing prevalence of chronic disease in their workplace.
Mobile apps can improve medication adherence
Mobile apps can also help employees to take their medications as prescribed. Our Medavie Mobile app has a feature that sends reminders to members on when to take their medications, when to refill their prescriptions, as well as information about the importance of medication adherence.
Non-adherence is a major challenge for benefit plans with studies consistently showing that 20 to 30% of medication prescriptions are never filled, and that approximately 50% of medications for chronic disease are not taken as as prescribed.
In summary, digital health has the power to:
- Remove access barriers to traditional care
- Reduce the strain on our public health system
- Improve access to mental health care
- Protect employers’ bottom lines by lowering absenteeism and increasing productivity
- Improve medication adherence
- Support employers’ recruitment and retention efforts
- Empower Canadians to become more engaged in their health
Our digital health offering
At Medavie Blue Cross (MBC), we have a number of digital tools in our health care toolbox including our digital health platform, Connected Care. Exclusive to members of MBC-insured plans, Connected Care draws on the latest technologies and innovations to offer premium access to the best, most immediate care possible – and at preferred pricing. Services include Digital Therapy Online Doctors, and Personalized Medicine.