There’s a reason so many episodes of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm penned by Larry David revolve around the annoyances of medical appointments. To paraphrase the acerbic comedian — they’re pretty, prettttty, pretttttty bad.
Going to a medical appointment used to mean taking at least part of a day off work, rushing to be on time, then being told by an administrative assistant in a bad mood to wait . . . and wait and wait some more. There would often be crying babies and sniffling seniors in a dingy room that needed a deep clean. As David’s bestie, Jeff Green, often says on Curb — that’s a whole bowl of wrong. As we trudge through month 15?! of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to see any silver linings. But one upside might be that employees and employers have been freed from the tyranny of in-person-only medical and paramedical appointments.
By the time the May 2021 print issue of Benefits Canada lands in your real or virtual mailbox, our long-time editor, Jennifer Paterson, will be back from her maternity leave (Ed note: she returned on May 3) and I’ll be done my short stint as interim editor and returning to my role as managing editor. Wrapping up my tenure as editor with a story that involves tequila and a mechanical bull feels, well, like a whole bowl of right. That story highlights how even physiotherapists have gone virtual during the coronavirus crisis.
Getting treatment for a physical ailment like an injured shoulder seems like something that can only be done in person. Not so, says Mike McClenahan. Back in 2018, the then-managing partner of Benefits by Design Inc., was skeptical at first but opting for virtual physiotherapy care had its advantages. “When you go to a bricks-and-mortar physiotherapist, what’s the first thing they ask you? [It’s] ‘Have you been doing your exercises?’ If you’re like me, the answer is, ‘Sort of.’ . . . [The app] adds a layer of accountability that’s hard to mimic with a bricks-and-mortar model.”
His shoulder healed and the experience led to what Oprah Winfrey calls an “aha!” moment. In June 2019, Benefits by Design and Green Shield Canada announced a pilot partnership with Phzio that would give BBD’s group benefits members access to virtual physiotherapy. While McClenahan (now vice-president of partner solutions with People Corp., which acquired Benefits by Design in April) couldn’t have known in mid-2019 that the paramedical benefits industry would have to switch to mostly virtual offerings due to public-health protocols in early 2020, he’s clearly on the right side of history here.
Now that more Canadian employees and employers have seen the benefits of virtual health-care offerings, I predict, there’s no going back. By June 2020, 47 per cent of Canadians had used virtual care during the pandemic, according to a Canadian Medical Association survey. And Manulife Financial Corp. recently partnered with Phzio, while Medavie Blue Cross and Telus Health also rolled out virtual physiotherapy options over the past few months.
Offering physiotherapy from the comfort of one’s couch-cum-office seems like a very wise perk for employers to offer employees these days. As our story, which looks at the future of remote work notes, 40 per cent of our nation’s workforce were working from home by April 2020, according to Statistics Canada. And I’d bet the majority of those workers, like me, have been working from ad-hoc “offices” in bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms for more than a year and now have various strange kinks that need to be worked out. Luckily, there’s now apps for that, and any other, health-related issue.
While virtual health care has never been hotter, other sectors are rising from the ashes of a very hard 2020. As our story featuring the 2021 Top 40 Money Managers Report, outlines many institutional investors are in the process of trying to build back better after being battered by economic hits wrought by the public-health crisis. Over the course of last year, the country’s gross domestic product shrank by slightly more than five per cent, according to StatsCan. But the experts McKiernan spoke to are cautiously optimistic. Yet, Janet Rabovsky, the Toronto-based chief investment officer at Fairwater Capital Corp., cautions in the article: “I don’t think it’s going to be a straight road to recovery. Every time you remove one stressor, another one comes into view.”
Rabovsky is talking about the economy, but she could just as easily be talking about the experience many employees and employers have had throughout this crisis.
When the May magazine went to press, Canada was (and still is) in the throes of a viscous third wave, so I’m under no illusion the rest of this year will be a straight road to recovery. But I hope our readers can take solace in the stories in this print issue that show while there may be seemingly endless stressors, there’s also been opportunities for everyone, from employees to employers to insurers to doctors to investors, to evolve.
Like McClenahan recounts in our Benefits Feature, getting thrown off a mechanical bull after drinking too much tequila, will likely lead to an injured shoulder, but it might also lead to useful professional insights. I’d say that’s a pretty, prettttty, pretttttty good lesson to keep in mind as we all stare down the second, and hopefully last, year of this pandemic.
Melissa Dunne is managing editor of Benefits Canada.