The role of convenience, personalization in a changing health-care landscape

With the workplace changing rapidly, the health-care landscape will be evolving along with it, a speaker told the audience at Benefits Canada‘s Calgary Benefits Summit last month.

“We believe there is an unmet need in Canadian health care today that we need innovation to address — not just to get people well but to keep them well,” said Kelly Blackshaw, business development leader at Wello, during a presentation at the May 29 event at Calgary’s Fairmont Palliser hotel.

Read: Taking big data to next level key to boosting employee health promotion

Blackshaw was referring to figures showing some provincial governments are spending almost half of their budgets on health care. And as those pressures are growing, the workplace itself is changing as a rising number of people work remotely and more Canadians remain in the workforce past age 65. There’s an opportunity, then, to deliver more personalized health care focused on wellness and do so more conveniently, according to Blackshaw.

“We see a lot of patient portals,” said Blackshaw, referring to digital options that assist with tasks such as refilling a prescription or booking a medical appointment.

Wearable devices, of course, are also on the rise amid an increased focus on employee well-being through nutrition and exercise supports, Blackshaw told the audience at the Calgary event. Also on the rise is telemedicine, through which patients can access health-care professionals remotely. “The growth is rapid in this space,” she said, citing trends from the United States.

“If we can intervene earlier or more upstream, it’s really important to do so,” said Blackshaw, referring to the role of newer types of health-care services.

When it comes to telemedicine itself, utilization rates have been good, she added, noting women have been particularly eager to take advantage of the services. As she pointed out, such services can address issues along the continuum of care, from dealing with the flu and colds all the way to referrals to specialists.

Read: HR, benefits lessons from the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire

When it comes to embracing newer models more generally, Blackshaw suggested that the current approach, with its focus on services such as disability, absence management and employee and family assistance programs, tend to reach only a portion of employees. Employers, she added, can achieve better outcomes by moving towards newer approaches that include the personalization, timeliness, convenience and flexibility that many employees want.

“Workplace benefits and corporate health and wellness strategies are moving towards more personalized care,” she said.