Benefits plan members nervous about in-person health care, finds survey

Even as provinces prepare to gradually re-open, Canadians are feeling a little skittish about receiving in-person health care before a vaccine for the coronavirus is developed, according to a new survey by Green Shield Canada.

The survey, which polled more than 500 benefits plan members, found that while 62 per cent said they’d be open to visiting the dentist in the pre-vaccine period, 25 per cent would not. In-person visits with paramedical practitioners were more likely to inspire nerves, with just 34 per cent of respondents saying they’d attend a physiotherapy appointment, while 29 per cent would go for a massage and 28 per cent would visit a chiropractor.

Nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of plan members said they’d expect health-care professionals to greet them in full personal protective equipment for any in-person interactions and 79 per cent said they’d want an understanding of a medical office’s health and safety procedures before they entered.

Read: Coronavirus could reduce employer health-care costs, finds analysis

Perhaps unsurprisingly, survey respondents expressed a strong interest in virtual-care options. Three-quarters (74 per cent) said they’re willing to use a virtual service to consult with a doctor, 67 per cent said they’d fill a prescription from an online pharmacy and 43 per cent said they’d be open to online mental-health support. Respondents aged 18 to 34 were more likely (63 per cent) to find virtual-care options appealing for mental health.

In addition, a quarter of respondents said they’d be interested in virtual physiotherapy and 19 per cent in virtual chiropractic consultations.

“It was an interesting exercise to measure Canadians’ attitudes about attending medical appointments that would have given them no pause only a few months ago,” said David Willows, Green Shield Canada’s executive vice-president of digital, innovation and brand experience, in a press release, “Clearly, this crisis and the required physical distancing has changed the entire health-care environment.”

Read: 5 benefits predictions for the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic