The Ultimate Guide to

for Canadian
HR Leaders

Everything you need to know about how virtual care can benefit your employees and your organization.

Guide Summary

Telemedicine is one of the most effective forms of healthcare in Canada and elsewhere around the world, whose popularity particularly skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. With 70% of issues seen in traditional doctor’s offices and clinics now being able to be conveniently and effectively treated through telemedicine instead, this innovative form of healthcare is more popular now than ever before – and this is just the beginning.

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In fact, more and more employers across Canada have been recognizing the important role that telemedicine can play in attracting and retaining top talent in their organizations while simultaneously saving their company money in the long run through saved disability costs.

But despite its recent rise into mainstream culture, there can still be some confusion around what telemedicine really is. As an HR leader, why is understanding telemedicine beneficial for you? There are plenty of advantages associated with offering your team telemedicine benefits, and we strongly believe that telemedicine should be at the core of any company’s health plan.

In this guide, we’ll explain the definition of telemedicine and what services it has to offer, how it can benefit your employees and drive tangible results for your organization, what to look for in a telemedicine provider, and more!

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Read on to learn how telemedicine works and how it can help you:

  • Reduce disability, absenteeism, and presenteeism costs for your company
  • Drive employee engagement
  • Encourage work-life balance and work-life integration
  • Build a happier, healthier workforce
  • Attract and retain top talent by standing out as an employer of choice

01 What is telemedicine?

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Telemedicine (interchangeably referred to as “telemedicine”, “telehealth”, and “virtual care”) is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients using telecommunications technology. It’s a form of care where the initial consultation doesn’t require physical presence or a physical exam. Remote patient monitoring is another aspect of telehealth, whereas clinicians track a patient’s health through remote testing. Providing your employees with unlimited primary care means that medical and well-being consultations happen when and how they need to, at no cost to your employee. It’s like having a doctor on demand.

How does it work?

A patient’s telemedicine journey typically follows these steps:

  • Intake

    A patient opens a telemedicine app on their mobile device or computer. They then answer a series of questions to begin the triage process and guide the member towards the best next step based on their need.

  • Consult

    The patient is connected with the appropriate care resource/professional who can provide medical advice.

  • Outcome

    The patient receives a care plan, prescription, and any required referrals or laboratory tests.

  • Follow-up

    The patient receives a follow-up from the same medical professional (1-7 days later, depending on the diagnosis) to ensure the patient is on the path to remission.

With many telemedicine providers, patients have the option to interact with care professionals through their preferred communication channel (chat, video call, phone call). This gives patients maximum flexibility to meet their needs throughout their day and allows them to proactively take care of their health in whichever way they’re most comfortable with.

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What does telemedicine treat?

A telemedicine provider with a multidisciplinary team (like Dialogue’s) can evaluate a growing number of primary care, mental health, and well-being conditions, including (but not limited to):

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Allergies
  • Urinary infections
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Dermatological issues
    (eczema, rashes, etc.)
  • Muscular and joint pain
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Insomnia
  • Nutritional health
  • Family, financial and legal counselling
  • And much more
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How telemedicine fills the gaps in Canadian healthcare

While 86% of Canadians report having a family physician, nearly 50% say that it would take over four days to be seen by a healthcare professional. Virtual healthcare doesn’t replace the public healthcare system but rather complements it by making it easier and faster to get access to medical care when a trip to a walk-in clinic isn’t necessary, which enables your employees to take care of their health uncompromisingly and without waiting. This is particularly beneficial for those who live in rural or remote areas or in a bustling city centre. Additionally, with members’ consent, patient health information can be shared across professionals (ex. from a Dialogue MD to a member’s GP), to reduce gaps in the continuity of care.

02 Why offer your employees telemedicine?

Give your employees the care they want and deserve. As it turns out, over 70% of Canadians believe that virtual care represents the future of healthcare and 82% of Canadians believe that telemedicine should be available as an employee benefit. Of course, there are plenty of other concrete benefits for both employers and employees alike.

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Attract and retain talent

As an employer, offering your employees fully-rounded healthcare benefits can demonstrate that you value your team’s well-being as well as make your organization a more desired workplace for potential talent prospects. According to the 2020 Sanofi Canada Healthcare survey, 86% of employees agree that a workplace environment that encourages health and wellness is an important factor when deciding on a job offer or when deciding whether or not to remain with a company.

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Reduce absenteeism and presenteeism rates

Absenteeism is a prime contributor to lost revenue and productivity for Canadian organizations and the economy as a whole. Employee absenteeism costs employers $16.6 billion annually, at an average annual of $2,000 per employee in Canada. Although not as widely measured, presenteeism (employees who come to work sick or who suffer from conditions that prevent them from working productively) can also have a significant impact on productivity losses. With 60% of employees not engaged at work, it’s crucial for organizations to decrease engagement-related productivity loss.

Telemedicine helps by reducing time spent away from work, as well as minimizing personal and travel time required for in-person consultations. This enhances employee work-life balance and generates greater productivity levels at work.

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Provide easy access to mental health care

Mental health is one of the major causes of short- and long-term disability, absenteeism and presenteeism costs. A recent Sanofi Canada Healthcare study reported that:

  • 36% of healthy Canadians and 45% of healthy Canadians in poor health arrived late or left work early due to stress
  • 41% of healthy Canadians and 53% of Canadians in poor health took at least one full sick day due to stress in the last year
  • 30% of Canadian workers report high levels of stress on a daily basis

Left unmanaged and untreated, stress of this magnitude can lead to more serious mental illness issues, such as anxiety and depression. Yet, 1 in 4 people suffering from a mental health issue don’t seek professional help. This is due to stigmatization, limited access to resources, expensive care-related costs, and patients ignoring treatment recommendations.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, $51 billion is lost each year in the Canadian economy due to mental health issues among employees. Employers incur approximately 25% of these costs.

Telemedicine offers new, more promising avenues for treating mental health. Greater accessibility, a multidisciplinary approach, and regular follow-ups mean that telemedicine can offer comprehensive, convenient, and cost-effective mental health care.

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Improve employee health outcomes

Why is telemedicine important? Because it makes it simpler for your employees to improve their health and well-being. It provides convenient, on-demand to online physicians, nurses, and other care and well-being professionals as well as refers patients to a network of online doctors, medical specialists and other healthcare professionals. In Dialogue’s approach, every video consultation is accompanied by a care plan, navigation support, follow-ups, and self-management resources.

Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring can benefit patients by:

  • Encouraging them to better manage their own health
  • Decreasing wait/travel time to/from appointments
  • Improving patient experience, knowledge, satisfaction, and clinical outcomes
  • Reducing hospitalizations and healthcare costs
  • Enabling better management of chronic diseases
  • Increasing access to healthcare tools and expertise
  • Reducing emergency room visits, severe illnesses, and deaths
  • Decreasing embarrassment, discomfort, or fear associated with in-person medical consultations
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Achieving employee work-life balance

Over 80% of millennials – who account for over 50% of today’s workforce – consider work-life balance to be a crucial requirement for where they work. With telemedicine, employees can have prescriptions sent directly to their pharmacy or to their home or workplace, giving them further control over their daily schedules and contributing to a better work-life balance. It also allows employees to seek care outside of work hours or when travelling. With so many employees working remotely, the ability to offer standardized healthcare to all employees, no matter where they are or what time they need it at, is a huge advantage.

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03 Best practices for telemedicine

Here are a few key elements to look out for in a telemedicine provider:

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A multidisciplinary team available via one easily accessible app

Some telemedicine providers (like Dialogue) offer a one-stop-shop approach to virtual care. For example, Dialogue’s Integrated Health Platform (IHP) allows employers to easily add or remove different health and wellness programs – primary care, mental health, and an employee assistance program – to build a cocktail of care benefits that suits their organization’s needs best. Having a fully-integrated platform reduces the frustration of managing multiple benefits programs across different providers, and increases the adoption and utilization of these programs by providing members simplified access.

In addition, multidisciplinary care, focused on meeting the patient’s needs and available on a single platform, has been proven to lead to the best outcomes. A multidisciplinary care team (such as Dialogue’s) is typically composed of the following:

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Primary care support

A medical team of general practitioners, nurse practitioners, and nurse clinicians help treat and support a wide range of non-urgent health concerns, such as general health inquiries, skin issues, or minor injuries and traumas. In the case that a member’s issue requires a medical test or an in-person evaluation, this care team provides the necessary referral and helps to find and book the right specialist. Additionally, some providers (like Dialogue) follow-up with patients (even for tests or evaluations done externally) to ensure they’re getting the help they need and are on the path to recovery.

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Stress and mental health support

Mental health issues are complex and can vary quite significantly. These teams should be staffed with a variety of mental health professionals including mental health specialists, social workers, occupational therapists, psychotherapists, psychologists, etc., to address a broad scope of issues as well as attend to individual preferences. From self-guided resources for those who prefer more autonomy to a personalized, practitioner-led treatment plan, this team works with a member to ensure they are connected to the right professional to help them quickly get back on their feet. With this multidisciplinary approach, medical practitioners can also do a clinical assessment and provide prescriptions to help manage symptoms if necessary.

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work-life balance support

To help support patients with non-medical issues, this team also consists of non-clinical specialists such as legal advisors, financial professionals, career counsellors, and trauma specialists. These kinds of professionals are typically available through an employee assistance program (EAP) and provide confidential counselling to members for personal or work-related challenges that may be hindering their productivity and well-being. Additionally, a crisis and trauma support team may be available to provide psychological first aid in cases of critical incidents at the workplace.

Data Privacy

Data privacy and security

Since telemedicine involves the transmission of sensitive personal information, it’s important to reassure members that their data is safe and secure. When it comes to the safety of members and privacy of data protection, telemedicine providers should take all necessary measures to keep client information confidential. In terms of safety member safety, the following best practices should be met:

  • Standardizing clinical practices in adherence with the Canadian Medical Association guidelines;
  • Conducting regular scope of practice and quality audits;
  • Proposing recommendations on matters that directly impact the quality of care;
  • Helping ensure ethical conduct and performance is provided

The best telemedicine providers meet all regulatory requirements in the jurisdictions where your organization operates, and ensure that all third-party vendors are safely managing and storing your data. They should also have earned certification for being SOC2 compliant, which reports internal measures that organizations take to govern the services they provide. A provider’s SOC2 compliance lets you know that your employees’ information is protected against deliberate and accidental threats and vulnerabilities. You can rest assured that your information and data will remain entirely confidential.

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Patient safety

Your employees deserve to be treated as safely and effectively as possible. To ensure this and to comply with physician regulating bodies, there are certain rules, regulations and operational processes that telemedicine providers and their care team should follow, including:

  • Respecting the same standards of the best medical practices for performing patient assessments
  • Respecting patient privacy and confidentiality
  • Maintaining proper medical records for each patient
  • Reinforcing standards of care
  • And much more

It’s important to check with your telemedicine provider that all best practices are being followed. To learn more about these best practices and the questions to ask your provider, click here.

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What people want from telemedicine

According to a recent study, there are certain top attributes that Canadians want and expect from telemedicine providers, including:

  • Accessibility – as defined by availability through work, school association or financial institution benefits
  • How an appointment is conducted – as defined by giving the choice to the patient (phone, video, text, chat, etc.)
  • Helps navigate the healthcare system – tools or guidance on finding lab centres or specialists when needed
  • Easy access to mental health support – flexible mental health support from self-guided resources to quick access to mental health professionals
  • Appointment timing – as defined by scheduling based on user availability
  • Follow-ups – all consultations are accompanied by a follow-up, even for referrals (i.e. blood test, appointment with specialist) to ensure members are getting the care they need

When selecting your telemedicine provider, it’s key to make sure that all of these attributes are included in the provider’s offering. After all, you want to give your employees health benefits that they will actually want to use.

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Getting your organization to adopt your new telemedicine benefits

It can be challenging to get employees to embrace health benefits. The key is to create new habits: When they have a health concern, they should come to rely on telemedicine and their “doctor in their pocket.” But how can you achieve this?

Simple: Keep the rollout rolling.

In order for HR professionals to effectively communicate a new benefit, it’s important that the telemedicine provider you choose will work with you long-term to build trust in your new telemedicine system. Beyond the initial rollout, your provider should offer a comprehensive awareness campaign, which includes onboarding, ongoing educational resources, follow-ups and evaluations that all act together to increase program adoption rates.

10 Key Takeaways

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  1. Today’s advanced technology makes it possible to safely substitute in-person office visits for telemedicine consultations.
  2. Employees want telemedicine. 70% of working Canadians say that it’s the future of healthcare.
  3. A healthy workforce leads to lower disability costs over time: Improved patient satisfaction leads to improved employee health and happiness, as well as higher employee engagement.
  4. An effective implementation strategy, with support from the telemedicine provider, amplifies user adoption.
  5. Telemedicine helps create a better work-life balance for employees, which helps attract and retain top talent.

Download the free ebook (PDF) version of the Ultimate Guide to Telemedecine for HR Leaders!

Download Now