Telemedicine | What to Expect at a Virtual Healthcare Appointment

/ By Cowan Insurance Group

Until recently, seeing a doctor would mean a call to their office for an appointment, or trying your luck at a walk-in clinic. It can feel next to impossible to get medical attention when it’s needed most. Most of the time it means time away from work for employees to get the help they need.

  • More than half of Canadians can’t schedule a same or next-day doctor’s appointment
  • One out of every three Canadians report a wait time of six or more days to be seen by a family doctor
  • Two-thirds of Canadians’ sole option for medical care outside regular hours is the emergency department
  • Mental health treatment is challenging to access, leaving 500,000 Canadians missing work weekly

Delayed access and lower-quality care from a strained healthcare system can be stressful for patients and costly for employers. But today, when 86% of Canadians have a smartphone, technology is making it possible to safely substitute telemedicine visits for in-person office visits. As a growing number of doctors adopt telemedicine, it’s becoming clear that patients and doctors can be in different places while still communicating effectively.

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine (telehealth, or virtual healthcare) involves diagnosing and treating patients from a distance using telecommunications technology, and without a physical presence or exam. Patients discuss their needs with medical professionals using a telemedicine platform via video, chat, or audio. Telemedicine provides 24/7 access, which can be particularly useful outside of standard business or in rural or remote areas where access to reliable healthcare services is limited.

Telemedicine has been increasing in popularity as a supplement to local walk-in clinics and family doctor visits. Factors influencing this trend include a lack of access to primary and specialist care, longer life spans, ease of access to health information, and an increased focus on physical and mental health.

Need advice? Our expert consultants are here to help.

A typical appointment includes four steps:

  1. Intake: Connecting using a telemedicine app and answering a series of questions to begin diagnosis
  2. Consult: Connecting with the right medical resource to further diagnose and provide medical advice
  3. Outcome: Receiving a care plan, prescription, and free medication delivery if needed, as well as any required referrals or laboratory tests
  4. Follow-Up: Receiving a follow-up call from the same medical professional (1-7 days, depending on the diagnosis)

Why should you consider telemedicine for your organization?

Simple and convenient. With video consults, personalized care plans, navigation support, follow-ups, and self-management resources, telehealth programs give employees a direct connection to medical professionals with less than a two-minute wait time. Employees can choose their preferred communication method (chat, call, or video) and the most convenient time for online medical consultation in English or French, keeping employees healthy, engaged, and at work.

Employees can easily access the program by:

  • Logging in using a computer, iOS, or Android device and selecting symptoms or reason for the visit
  • Getting paired with a provincially-licenced medical professional
  • Connecting virtually with the doctor for diagnosis and treatment
  • Selecting their preferred method to have a prescription filled

Better health outcomes. Programs work directly with patients, specialists, and allied partners to coordinate and manage treatment plans integrated with a growing number of pharmacies and family physicians. Other benefits include virtual records, e-prescribing, medical notes, lab requisitions, and specialist referrals for continuity of care.

A provider with a multidisciplinary team can typically evaluate a growing number of everyday primary care medical conditions, like congestion and cold, allergies, skin issues (eczema and rashes), muscle and joint pain, anxiety and depression, insomnia, travel and nutritional health, sexually transmitted and urinary tract infections.

Is telemedicine the right answer for your organization?

A telemedicine program is not the same as an Employee Assistance Program but can work well in conjunction with one. Depending on the provider, telemedicine programs are available as employer-paid subscriptions or on a per-use fee-for-service basis. With several telemedicine providers and products available, a 24/7/365 virtual care platform offers national on-demand healthcare available to fit your needs. All from the comfort of your home or office.

Telemedicine is driving tangible benefits for Canadian employers. Early return on investment results include:

  • Reduced organizational costs and lost time
  • Increased employee engagement
  • Better work-life balance and work-life integration for employees
  • A happier, healthier workforce
  • Attracting and retaining top talent by standing out as an employer of choice with modern benefits

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