Posted by Michelle Normandeau on November 24, 2020
Michelle Normandeau

According to a 2020 report by Environics Research, here’s what you need to know about the Canadian perception of healthcare and telemedicine taking into consideration the effects of the pandemic. 

What do Canadians really think of healthcare and telemedicine – especially during the age of COVID-19? A study conducted by Environics Research surveyed 1,514 Canadians spanning all age groups and provinces during September 2020 to find out exactly that.

Healthcare accessibility in Canada

It’s no shock that one of the major findings from Environics Research confirms what we all already suspected: getting fast, convenient access to healthcare is a frustration for many Canadians. While this was an issue before 2020, nearly half of Canadians surveyed reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult to access the care they need in a timely and efficient manner. 

Canada is praised for its public healthcare system, and 86% of Canadians reported having a family physician. While that’s commendable, wait times for access to this kind of care tend to take too long, leading to frustration. 46% of those surveyed indicated that it would take on average over 4 days before they could see a healthcare professional for a minor health concern, and 22% stated it takes over a week. Extended waiting periods to receive care can have a negative impact on health, lead to lessened productivity, and introduce disruptions in daily life.

That’s not the only challenge: almost half of those surveyed reported their frustration also spawns from lack of choice in appointment times and not being seen by the right healthcare professional for their needs. 

Virtual care is the future of healthcare

One of the solutions to many of the frustrations associated with Canadian healthcare is through the increased implementation of virtual care. More and more Canadians are expecting their employers to show commitment to corporate wellness and to be assured that their employers value their health and well-being – and it looks like telemedicine is going to be playing a growing role. In fact, 70% of Canadians surveyed agree that “virtual healthcare represents the future of healthcare”, with most also agreeing that having access to virtual healthcare will reduce the number of hours they spend away from work or school, permit them to be more proactive about their health, and can provide convenient access to care from the comfort and safety of their own space.

The Canadian belief that virtual healthcare is the future of healthcare, along with the advantages they associate with virtual care, suggests that the public is comfortable with the technology associated with telemedicine and that adopting and learning a new technology would not be a deterring factor to getting access to the quality healthcare they need.

Why use virtual care? It’s safe to say that there are multiple perks to going the virtual healthcare route. It’s a preferred form of care for an increasing amount of Canadians for several other reasons, namely:

  • No travel necessary
  • Does not expose you to other sick people
  • Can access a healthcare team from anywhere
  • Reduced wait times

What Canadians want (and need) from telemedicine

Virtual care companies must listen to and fulfill the wants and needs of Canadians in order to expand the popularity of virtual care. So, what do Canadians expect from virtual healthcare services?

Based on a hypothetical virtual healthcare model, Canadians picked which healthcare attributes matter the most to them. 76% said they would appreciate the following features:

  • Accessibility (as defined by availability through work, school association, or financial institution benefits)
  • Follow-ups
  • Mental health support
  • Appointment timing (as defined by scheduling based on user availability)
  • How appointments are conducted (as defined by giving the choice to the user (phone, video, text, chat, etc.))

It’s no surprise that accessibility is one of the biggest factors for why Canadians opt for virtual care. Although there are several telemedicine providers offering their services directly to patients, eight in ten Canadians also say that they wouldn’t be willing to pay for their own virtual healthcare. What’s more, 82% of working Canadians agree that employers should provide virtual healthcare for their employees and 66% say that they would likely use virtual healthcare services if it was available through their company benefits plan.

What does this mean for employers and organizations? 

Particularly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping employees safe and providing the appropriate care for their teams has been expected from employers now more than ever. Employers recognize that providing their employees with the right access to health and well-being resources is paramount to employee productivity as well as the overall success of the company, making healthcare services – particularly virtual healthcare – more of a priority. 

While Canadians enjoy having access to universal public healthcare, there are often barriers, frustrations, and lost work or school hours that come as part of the packaged deal. This is where virtual healthcare services can step in, offering a solution that both employees and employers can benefit from. 

Read the full findings of the report here.

About the author

Michelle is the content writer for Dialogue. She's also a freelance writer for multiple publications including Narcity Media and Time Out Montreal.