Editor’s Note: In early 2020, Medavie Blue Cross commissioned Leger, one of Canada’s leading research and analytics firms, to conduct a survey of group benefit plan administrators to align our products and services with the health benefit needs of their workforce.
Since then, our industry has seen exponential growth in virtual care and mental health claims, with COVID-19 accelerating digital health adoption and driving up pandemic-related stress and anxiety.
The following are key findings from our survey, along with results from the 2020 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey, and polls taken since the emergence of COVID-19. All provide valuable insights and fresh perspectives in informing your health benefit decisions.
Before COVID-19, survey respondents had this to say about virtual care:
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- Over the next two years, 65% of HR professionals planned to increase their focus on technology-enabled, consumer-centric healthcare, while 60% planned to invest in virtual technology.
- Almost all HR professionals believed that at least one technology will play a role in the health care needs of their company’s workforce in the future, with online claim submission/reimbursement in real time seen as important for 87%.
- Other digital tools that ranked high in importance were:
- Medication management tools for drug pricing information (83%) or appropriate drug use (80%)
- Strong user experience across all digital tools (81%)
- Online health and wellness portals (80%)
- Healthcare apps to manage day-to-day symptoms (78%)
- Use of member data to deliver personalized insights and health recommendations (78%)
- 53% of plan members used at least one digital device or mobile app to help achieve personal health or fitness goals in the past year, up from 32% in 2015.
- 71% of plan members would be willing to use virtual care technology to receive healthcare services.
Research by Medisys on virtual care after the outbreak of Coronavirus shows that:
- The volume of online consultations has grown as fast in the last three months as it has in the last 10 years.
- Data traffic among platform providers has grown about 10 times the pre-pandemic volume.
The surveys also focused on mental health, which prior to the pandemic was already having a huge impact on benefit plans.
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- 61% of HR professionals had seen an increase in mental health disability claims in the last five years, with 23% saying they have seen a BIG increase.
- 69% had seen in increase in workplace absenteeism due to mental health challenges.
- 70% said they planned to invest more to support the mental health of their workforce and 69% planned to invest more to enhance benefits that promote self-care and a culture of workplace wellness.
- 36% of plan members said they arrived late or left work early due to stress at least once in the past year, while 41% of plan members took at least one full sick day off due to stress in the past year.
- The top three sources of stress were personal finances (39%), workload (34%) and work-life balance (32%).
- In early August, the Morneau Shepell Mental Health Index™ report showed a 10-point decline from the pre-pandemic benchmark of 75, the fourth consecutive month for a negative mental health score in Canada.
- A survey by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Conference Board of Canada, published in late June, found that the majority of respondents (84%) were experiencing an increase in their mental health concerns, specifically in regard to family wellbeing (24%), personal future (23%), isolation and loneliness (21%) and anxiousness or fear (21%).
Looking to the future, the survey findings revealed areas where HR professionals and plan sponsors see challenges and opportunities.
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- 76% of HR professionals agreed there is a growing need for a cross-generation approach to benefit plan design.
- 73% believed their benefits package had become more important to their recruitment and retention initiatives over the past five years.
- One of the most surprising results of the Sanofi Canada survey – given that it was conducted months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic - was that vaccinations against infectious diseases topped the list of new benefits that plan members would use and plan sponsors would like to cover.
- When presented with 15 possible new benefit offerings, plan members’ top five picks were:
1. Immunizations for infectious diseases (37%)
2. Fitness classes (33%)
3. Health risk screenings (32%)
4. 24-hour virtual care (32%)
5. Genetic testing to help determine risk for certain diseases (29%)
- 79% of plans sponsors had at least one major concern about their benefit plans.
- The top five concerns were drug plan sustainability (42%), dental plan sustainability (39%), absence/disability (32%), use of paramedical benefits (29%) and fraud (28%).
These rankings mirror the top-five list in 2018 except for fraud, which was new on the list.