We doubled our size in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and here’s how.
The Demand for Dialogue during the COVID-19 Pandemic
One day during the peak of the coronavirus hype, our self-screening tool helped thousands, and nearly 40% of our daily patients were consulting for COVID-related symptoms. Compared to the volumes that we were used to earlier in March this was an extreme increase, yet our response time remained below 15 minutes. Interestingly enough, this demand pattern didn’t line up with what we were seeing in the news about confirmed cases in Canada – and here’s why.
The “Patient Volume” is the fraction of all our daily patients that consulted for a COVID-related case; the “Confirm Daily Cases” is the Canada wide number as confirmed by the government of Canada (source).
Because we are fully virtual, we at Dialogue expected to see larger spikes in traffic and demand than traditional brick and mortar healthcare. With traditional healthcare you have to increase public awareness and ramp up testing capabilities; with Dialogue, the capacity to triage patients was always available, and with it being fully online, it was easier to access.
When COVID-19 is in the news, you may not immediately run out to get tested, but you may be more inclined to do a self-screening or consult with a healthcare professional virtually.
Initially we had high demand for free self-screening. The pandemic was new and people needed information. Following on the heels of that demand, some people also needed to see a medical professional to discuss their symptoms and seek care virtually. This demand peaked early but levelled out before finally starting to shrink in parallel with the dropping Canadian case counts.
This lines up with what we see normally at Dialogue: many of our most frequently consulted for medical concerns are not what you expect to see at an Emergency Room or a walk-in clinic. We’re experts in dermatology, sexual health, mental health, and more; in general we excel at non-acute and preventive care, which includes symptom screening for COVID-19.
Before Canada even began to see a significant number of cases, Dialogue was already consulting with patients and sharing information; doing our part to flatten the curve as early as possible. The virtual care model has lower barriers to getting the care you need because you can access it from anywhere, even from home. Telemedicine is focused on information and preventive care, which together were key to supporting our clients and the Canadian public.
How We Scaled to Meet that Demand
Dialogue had a newfound responsibility that came to light during the initial COVID-19 outbreak; not only were we there to serve our members and their families, but to support the Canadian healthcare system as a whole in order to alleviate the burden on hospitals.
In response to this demand, we knew we needed multiple solutions: for those seeking information, we needed something self-serve and free to use; and for those who needed medical evaluation, we needed a more streamlined way of getting care.
The following are initiatives we took to address this demand:
- We launched Chloe for Covid, a free chatbot resource which allows the public to get accurate and personalized information from trusted Canadian medical sources regarding COVID-19. Since launching, this tool has helped inform over 32,000 Canadians.
- We took the initiative to launch a Personal Protective Equipment store which provides equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer to the public at cost.
- We added a dedicated COVID-19 queue within our care platform. This allowed us to provide faster and more efficient care to those impacted. At its peak, nearly 40% of our daily patients were being directed to this queue.
- Millions of Canadians have access to Dialogue! As many shifted to working from home, we worked hard to quickly provide flexible Dialogue offerings to new clients to ensure their employees had access to quality care during confinement.
- This growth means not only providing able bodies to provide our service, but to scale and automate some of our processes in order to continue to grow and evolve alongside the fast-changing workplace environment.
- We set out to educate and inform. Since early February we have taken the lead to proactively communicate with our clients about COVID-19 and how Dialogue is there to help. We provided more content on a range of topics, and as a result, our engagement from communications doubled.
As the workplace evolves, so do our clients’ needs
As we look forward, we know that there is still much work for Dialogue to do.
Already we are helping tackle the information gap around returning to work and how best to deconfine safely. These resources include a Return to Work Guide that highlights the necessary steps and precautions, as well as the Deconfinement Expert series where experts discussed various topics like personal protective equipment, safely expanding our social circle, mental health and more.
Throughout this pandemic we have also been constantly reminded of the importance of mental health, especially as working from home has reinvented the workplace. That is why we provide a Stress Management and Well Being program to clients who would like to provide this service to their employees.
Understanding our journey through these unprecedented times is key to looking forward, and key to helping even more Canadians.
The most important takeaway we have from this journey is that health is everything. Don’t settle.
In conclusion, a few words from our co-founder and CSPO Anna Chif:
“We never thought this level of scale-up would be possible. We started the company 4 years ago, with the vision of making access to healthcare simple and affordable. We built a team that went through the peak of the crisis, in the midst of the largest scale-up our company has seen, and with a lot of eloquence. And I think this was in big part thanks to the quality of the culture we have worked so hard to build, but especially, the intentional choices which we continued working on every day, by making small changes to support its evolution.”