Walmart Canada rolls out free virtual health care to all staff

Walmart Canada has introduced a free virtual health-care platform for employees in response to the coronavirus.

The service, through EQ Care, has been available to about 90,000 full, part time and temporary employees from the retailer’s stores and head offices since last week.

It had started looking at virtual care options in the fall of 2019, but the plan took on new urgency when the public health emergency set in. Walmart Canada worked with its third-party administrator, SEB Administrative Services Inc., as well as EQ Care to make the app available within two days.

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With employees becoming frontline workers in the pandemic, there was a pressing need to make sure they felt safe and well, says Ashley Jones, senior director of total rewards and global mobility. “When we have such an unknown, in terms of day to day, how the health-care system is responding to support us as Canadians, it’s terrific that we . . . are able to deliver a program that will help our associates to get through and get the help they need so they can feel mentally and physically well to come to work.”

The app will be part of Walmart Canada’s benefits package for the next year, at which point the company will reassess how well the service is being used, she says.

Employees can use the benefit at any time of day through either an app or the internet. First, they will be connected with a nurse or care manager to set up a health record, the they’re transferred to a doctor within minutes, who can diagnose basic issues and facilitate next steps, including issuing prescriptions, lab requisitions, tests or specialist referrals, says Daniel Martz, EQ Care’s chief executive officer.

Read: Supporting employees’ workplace health, financial wellness during coronavirus

The health-care professionals that patients speak with are trained on Canada’s latest public health guidelines for the coronavirus, he notes. “We’re able to go through a protocol to assess whether [the patient] has symptoms that would make [them] high risk of being diagnosed with COVID-19. If that’s the case, . . . we have a specific referral pathway where we send [them] to the public health information resource or the nearest testing centre.”

As of Monday, more than 1,400 Walmart Canada employees have registered with the app and 350 have been in touch with a case manager. Of this group, 215 were connected to a live consultation with a physician, says Jones, noting positive feedback is already coming in.

“I’m just thrilled with the engagement. When you think about how long a program typically takes to roll out, we were able to turn around with some really clear messaging and reach out to all of our associates to [help them] understand what the benefit was and how they could access it within a really quick period of time.”

Read: Head to head: Is telemedicine the right approach to employee health care?