As governments around the world remain gripped by financial hardship in addressing the growing costs of healthcare - especially amidst a global health pandemic - Dialogue’s Medical Director Dr. Marc Robin believes telemedicine has the potential to improve access to healthcare for all Canadians while reducing costs to taxpayers and governments.
“Telemedicine services covered by employers or third parties are a perfect, long-term solution for both improving access to care and reducing pressure on our healthcare systems.”
A complementary healthcare system is one in which public and private healthcare services co-exist. Health spending in many countries, in fact – including Canada, the US, Australia, Germany, and the UK to name just a few – is based on a mix of public and private funding.
“Employer-provided programs like telemedicine don’t just drive positive health outcomes in the workplace,” says Dr. Robin, “they complement the Canadian healthcare system by increasing capacity and lowering costs overall.”
Healthcare costs in Canada
In Canada, about 70% of healthcare is funded by taxpayers, while the remaining 30% is funded through private insurance or out-of-pocket payments. About two-thirds of Canadians currently have complementary private coverage for non-covered benefits, mostly through their employers.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, workers in Canada took an average of 9.3 sick days in 2011, costing our economy an estimated $16.6 billion. Public healthcare costs, meanwhile, continue to rise.
As recently as 2018, the average Canadian family could expect to pay $12,935 in taxes related to healthcare costs – an increase of almost 70% percent since the data was first made available in 1997.
Sadly, a large part of those costs (some $2.1 billion, according to Dr. Robin’s research) is linked to waiting time when a patient’s condition deteriorates and inefficiencies attached to care fragmentation - i.e. the fact that patients must often visit several clinics or hospitals to access all the resources they need.
Employer-provided solutions complement public healthcare
Dialogue has been, from inception, a B2B offering – a distinction, says Dr. Robin, that has allowed the company to focus on driving program utilization to improve health in the workplace for millions of Canadians.
Dialogue’s streamlined care model both complements and helps to unload the public healthcare system by acknowledging the fact that, the sooner a health issue can be addressed, the less it costs everyone in terms of public funding.
The organization achieves this in part by:
- Removing barriers for employees and their families in terms of when, where, and how quickly they can schedule health appointments
- Encouraging individuals to be more proactive about their health
- Pioneering partnerships with insurers like Sun Life, SSQ and Canada Life to further expand the reach of virtual care
“Around the world,” says Dr. Robin, “we find that companies offering telemedicine to employees reduce work days missed, resulting in both improved job satisfaction and a 3-5x ROI. That’s a win/win for employees and employers alike.”
Equally important, however, is the fact that taking advantage of employer-provided virtual healthcare services makes more public appointments available.
“Telemedicine services, like those offered by Dialogue, increase the global availability of healthcare by decreasing demands on our public system. This is a very positive outcome. By increasing system capacity, and removing some of the burden of funding public healthcare, people who use public services gain greater access and endure shorter wait times.”
Sharing the benefits
Dr. Robin firmly believes that employer-provided telemedicine programs supplement our national standards for universal health coverage.
“If you can get healthcare from home in the evening after work, for example - and you don’t have to wrap up your 3-year old baby to get to the hospital to receive that care – that not only helps you and your family, it reduces wait times at emergency departments and walk-in clinics.”
By increasing Canada’s overall capacity in terms of the number of appointments available in a 24-hour period, and decreasing the pressures on our public healthcare system as a result, employer-provided virtual health programs benefit everyone.