Plan members increasingly open to pharmacogenetics, virtual care

Virtual-care options are gaining ground, according to the 2020 Sanofi Canada health-care survey.

Looking at a scenario where plan members would receive health-care services through secure digital chat or video devices — where the health-care professionals aren’t the member’s usual providers, but would be able to share the consultation information with them if requested — 71 per cent said they’d be willing to use these services. Plan members between ages 18 and 34 were more likely (76 per cent) to say so compared to those aged 55 and older (63 per cent).

“Virtual health care is expanding and rightly so,” said Mélina Lamarche, director of product development at la Capitale Insurance and Financial Services and a member of the Sanofi Canada advisory board. “It provides personalized medical support anytime, anywhere. The financial benefits are significant and employees are very interested. They are ready. The time has come to seize such opportunities to reinvent group insurance through digital means.”

Read: Canadians cite 91% satisfaction rate with virtual health care

The survey also found 74 per cent of plan members said they’d be open to allowing their physician to get a sample of their DNA by cheek swab so they can prescribe a medication most likely to be effective.

Of 15 potential new benefits offerings — some of which would be covered by health-care spending or wellness accounts — plan members were most likely to choose immunizations for infectious diseases (37 per cent), fitness classes (33 per cent), health-risk screenings with health-care professionals (32 per cent), 24-hour virtual care (32 per cent) and genetic testing to help determine risk for certain diseases (29 per cent).

Plan sponsor respondents were aligned with members on the issue of immunizations (32 per cent), somewhat aligned on screenings (28 per cent), virtual care (24 per cent) and fitness classes (22 per cent), while genetic testing (13 per cent) wasn’t as popular a response. More (27 per cent) plan sponsors said they’re interested in covering one-on-one education with a health-care expert for people with chronic conditions.

Read: Pharmacogenetic testing’s place in long-term disability programs

When considering the option of having these items offered at discounted rates rather than directly added to the health benefits plan, 63 per cent of plan members said they’d view their employer more positively. Those aged 18 to 34 were more likely (69 per cent) to feel this way compared to members age 55 and older (59 per cent).

Responding to the list of 15 potential new benefits offerings, 20 per cent of plan members indicated they or a family member would use medical cannabis authorized by a health-care provider if it were covered by their benefits plan.

Plan members with chronic conditions were more likely to say they’d use medical cannabis if they have asthma/lung disease (36 per cent), mental illness (35 per cent), arthritis (28 per cent) and chronic pain (26 per cent).

“A growing role for insurance carriers is to vet possible providers of new benefits to evaluate the quality of the outcomes and identify which providers are a good fit for the unique needs of the workplace,” said Marie-Chantal Côté, vice-president of market development for group benefits at Sun Life and a member of the Sanofi Canada advisory board. “Plan sponsors can be a valuable part of that process by participating in pilot projects.”

Read: A look at medical cannabis coverage’s growing pains