In today’s talent-driven market, competitive salaries are no longer enough. Following more than a year of pandemic worry, social isolation, and increased stress, more and more employees want workplace benefits that support their overall health. In fact, a LifeWorks (formerly Morneau Shepell) study reported that 77 per cent of employees would consider changing jobs for an organization that provides better mental health and wellbeing services.
The past year’s digital health revolution sparked the accelerated adoption of virtual care, with more than five million virtual appointments facilitated as of March 2021. Such services can also support working Canadians, helping to remove the barriers to accessing care, reduce time away from work or with loved ones, and support better productivity and wellness. In fact, TELUS Health Virtual Care reports that 70 per cent of virtual consults through their service are initiated during the workday and 85 per cent of health concerns resolved without an in-person visit. The convenience and simplicity of these services make them a critical component of any employee benefits plan.
It’s important to remember, however, that technology is a means to an end. Innovations like virtual care are meant to enable better access to quality care but it’s just as important to ensure empathy, compassion, continuity of care, and human connections continue throughout the entire patient journey.
“Virtual should never mean less personal,” says Dr. Dominik Nowak, family physician and Chair of the TELUS Medical Advisory Council. “Whether that moment of care is in-person or through a screen, it’s our responsibility as health professionals to build the trust that is essential to quality care, co-design a treatment plan based on the individual’s values and needs, and ensure that plan has continuity with their existing links to the health system.”
When considering the right virtual care service for its workforce, employers should consider the following elements:
- Human interaction at every step of the care journey
In a survey of 16,500 workers and 1,300 senior business decision-makers around the world, Mercer Marsh Benefits found that the most common concern among workers hesitant to try digital health innovations was a lack of human attention. Another study noted that some consumers may be wary of technology-enabled health services because they feel their medical needs are far too complex to be understood by an algorithm.
Just as healthcare teams guide patients through every step of a clinic visit — from the warm hello of a receptionist to the careful assessment of nurses and physicians — national employer-focused virtual care services like TELUS Health Virtual Care should have a live person greet employees at the beginning of their journey to establish trust early and foster honest, transparent conversation.
A leader in this space, TELUS Health offers the right combination of advanced technology and the warmth of human interactions to every person seeking care.
- Convenient, on-demand access to care for the whole person
Virtual care services are quickly becoming the medical “front door” for many Canadians. In fact, a third of Canadians said they would prefer to have their first point of contact with physicians virtually even after COVID-19.
Virtual care services that enable timely access to primary, mental and allied health support, and even prescription management and delivery, all on a single platform empower employees to address their needs with ease. Extending that benefit to family members further enhances employees’ wellbeing and helps them feel valued.
- Specially-trained healthcare professionals
Compassion and empathy remain the key pillars of patient care, regardless of how it is delivered. As healthcare professionals become more adept at using digital platforms, ongoing education will play a key role in learning to deliver care in this new environment while ensuring a human connection remains at the heart of every visit.
Experts from Stanford University recommend that healthcare professionals learn and employ strategies that help create meaningful connections with their patients through the screen. Non verbal communication tools such as leaning forward, optimizing eye contact, and using appropriate facial expressions to convey active listening can help express emotion and empathy virtually.
“Our goal is to empower working Canadians with improved access to secure, quality care because we know that healthy employees perform better at work,” says Daniel Martz, vice president, virtual care, TELUS Health. “Through our virtual care service, employees and their families can receive compassionate, holistic care where and when they need it. Providing a virtual care experience with genuine human connections has become an essential part of managing health during the pandemic and we expect it to remain vital for years to come.”
It is also important to consider a service that supports the continuity of care, whether that means seeing the same healthcare professional over time or connecting moments of care back to other links within the health system, such as people’s family physicians.
While virtual care can address up to 85 per cent of health concerns, it also has limitations. In-person assessments will still be required for some health needs but in the future, employers can expect to see a hybrid model of care where the virtual care services they offer will be a highly beneficial complement to existing public health services.
To learn more about human-centred virtual care services, visit telus.com/health.