Employee Benefits

The Virtual Care Continuum

By Preet Pall on July, 12 2022
5 minute read

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Technology - and the role it plays in managing our health - has taken significant steps forward over the past few years. With a steady influx of new services and solutions being rolled out, it’s not hard to imagine one becoming overwhelmed trying to figure out where they all fit. Let’s help you with that.

To provide some context: people experience highs and lows throughout their life, and the virtual healthcare options that are out there are designed to support us on almost any level. For those that are thriving, there are resources to help us maintain and enhance our well being; for those that aren't doing so well, there are options that can help us take proactive steps in managing our health and explore treatment options. Whether you’re thriving or struggling, these tools won’t do much if you don’t know they exist.

This blog will introduce you to a range of virtual healthcare solutions, explain their purpose in a person’s health and wellness journey, and paint a picture of who would benefit from them the most. After reading you’ll be in a better position to understand how to get the most out of the virtual healthcare options available through your benefits and be closer to achieving your optimal health.


Virtual tools for preventative health

There’s a strong possibility that your benefits plan provider has some form of a virtual wellness program built into their offering as an extension of your health benefits. Wellness programs are designed to help employees make healthier lifestyle decisions that improve their overall well-being. Embracing the wellness programs available through your plan can have a marked effect on your organization’s wellness culture, which will in turn have a positive effect on your employees opinion about you as an employer.

In most cases, a virtual wellness program will provide employees with content that’s curated around their interests (after they tell the program what those interests are) and access health risk assessment tools to further customize the content that’s being provided. A comprehensive wellness program can take this one step further by linking individual claims data to an employee’s profile to deliver unique actionable advice.

Wellness programs serve as a gateway to actively managing one’s health goals, and most people will find something that will appeal to their interests. Risk assessment tools can help employees stay ahead of looming health concerns that may come up later-on in life, and there are a variety of lifestyle resources people can take advantage of to boost their wellness routine. 


Employee & family assistance programs as a frontline resource


We’re all pretty familiar with employee & family assistance programs: long thought of as a crisis hotline for employees and dependents dealing with one of life’s challenges. They still play that role, but they can also be much more.

For starters, if you don’t have a wellness program built-in to your benefits package, look into whether your EFAP provider does - or if there’s an option to have one added-on. Some EFAP provider platforms have the ability to serve as a one-stop shop to drive wellness initiatives and deliver on the traditional services you’d expect (short-term counseling, stress management, and mental health support).

The 2021 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey points out that mental-health conditions are the top reported chronic condition reported by employees and that personal finances is the #1 source of stress. Given an EFAPs role as a frontline support for these types of issues, it’s not surprising we’ve seen increased utilization since the onset of the pandemic. As mental health and financial worries continue to be prominent causes of concern for Canadians, we should expect that trend to continue, making an EFAP a must-have for organizations looking to prioritize employee well-being.


Therapies to address ongoing issues

As employees participate in wellness programs and make use of the resources available through an EFAP it may become apparent that they’re dealing with challenges that need extra help . With a coordinated approach, these aforementioned virtual healthcare solutions will refer or recommend treatment options that can often be covered by their benefits plan - like internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT).

iCBT is an online therapy guided by a real-life therapist. It has proven to be helpful for employees suffering from anxiety, depression, insomnia and pain management. The service provides the benefit of therapy, with the convenience of having a customized program designed to meet them on their level in a virtual setting. 

Check with your benefits plan professional to determine if iCBT can be covered by your plan’s paramedical practitioner coverage.


Creative ways to add virtual solutions to your benefits


If you had to narrow-in on a singular appeal of virtual health solutions, it would be the accessibility they bring to the table. With all the options currently at your disposal, you should make a point of having a conversation with your benefits professional about the more common options listed above. They’ll also be able to tell you about other virtual options you can use to customize your plan such as:

Virtual pharmacies: Online pharmacies have a national presence. They integrate with the prescription drug coverage provided by your plan to introduce cost savings, free delivery, and automated refills to help with drug adherence. A very convenient service that could actually save your plan money.

Paramedicals: the pandemic has taught us that some health services that can be just as effectively performed virtually as in-person. A player in this arena - MSK by Phzio - provide access to virtual professionals ready to help employees deal with musculoskeletal issues. 

Virtual HealthCare: The Doctor shortage and “social distancing” we’ve experienced in recent years has only emphasized the value of having access to 24/7 medical advice with ability to provide prescriptions and progress treatment of non-emergency health concerns. 

Navigation: Employees can now lean on experts to help them navigate the complex Canadian healthcare landscape and how to make efficient use of their benefits. CurvHealth entered this marketplace 5 years ago, and provides a variety of services like coaching and paramedical practitioner services (at lower costs).


In closing

Evidently, there are a variety of different virtual options out there to help boost your benefits plan’s curb appeal. Some may be embedded in your plan already, meaning all you need to do is learn about them and spread the word across your team.

Like we said, whether you’re thriving or struggling, these tools won’t do much if you and your employees don’t know they exist. Understanding their relevance at different “health stages” is vital to building the familiarity that will ensure that they’re positioned to be impactful to your employees’ at those pivotible periods in their lives.

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