Manulife is launching a preventative opioid management program, extending its Vitality program to group benefits plans and partnering with digital health company Akira Health.

The opioid management program features a two-step system. The first ensures plan members who start opioid treatment do so with a short-term supply, while the second encourages using short-acting opioids at the outset.

“We believe in promoting the safe and smart use of opioids, especially for people using them for the first time, or who haven’t used opioids regularly,” said Donna Carbell, head of group benefits at Manulife Canada, in a press release.

Read: What is the plan sponsor’s role in mitigating the opioid crisis?

“Through a much more holistic approach, we hope people will be better able to recover sooner, and with less chance of addiction or additional health issues caused by overuse. When fewer plan members need ongoing, long-term treatment, their plan’s drug costs and addiction management costs are lower.”

Manulife is also extending its Vitality program to group benefits plans. Aiming to help people track healthy activities and earn rewards, the program encourages users to complete health reviews, including for nutrition and mental health. It then provides them with personalized weekly targets. And upon completion, members receive rewards from various companies.

“Chronic health conditions are on the rise in Canada and, in combination with an aging population, could soon reach economically unsustainable levels,” said Carbell. “We are on a mission to help people and organizations become healthier, so employees can be their best at work, feel happier and be more engaged.”

Read: Can points-powered apps help employers boost wellness programs?

Manulife’s partnership with Akira Health is aiming to decrease workplace absenteeism by leveraging technology for both plan sponsors, plan members and health-care providers.

The services, which include 24/7 virtual medical consults with clinicians, will be offered through the insurer’s new online health-care platform for employers. The Akira app, which uses secure text and video chat, provides general health counsel. As well, clinicians can diagnose, write and renew prescriptions and provide referrals to specialists, labs and imaging centres.

“Virtual health care is growing at a faster pace in Canada and will soon be the new standard for employers,” said Dan Pawliw, co-founder of Akira.

Read: 2019 Group Benefits Providers Report: How digital health is affecting the benefits industry