Latest COVID-19 Survey Shows Heightened Interest in Virtual Care

With the pandemic limiting Canadians’ ability to access much-needed healthcare services, many organizations are looking for alternatives. The Impact of COVID-19 on Pensions and Benefits in Canada survey, conducted in June by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, finds increased uptake of virtual health solutions—a trend that will likely continue, even as healthcare providers reopen their doors.

Latest COVID-19 Survey Shows Heightened Interest in Virtual Care

Virtual health isn’t a new concept to Canadians: one-third of the survey respondents were already offering telehealth/telemedicine services (for physical ailments) before the pandemic. However, the impact of COVID-19 has clearly accelerated this trend. The survey finds that 19% of respondents have implemented these services due to the pandemic, and another 17% are considering doing so.

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Putting it all together, a surprising 70% have either implemented or are considering implementing telehealth/telemedicine services. The demand is being driven, in part, by plan members: Survey respondents identified telehealth/telemedicine as one of the top 10 topics where they’re getting more member questions.

Interestingly, of those who added these services due to the pandemic, more than three in five don’t have a fixed end date for making them available to their members.

For virtual health to have a real impact, removing barriers to access (such as cost) is key. Before the pandemic, 15% of respondents had reduced or eliminated cost sharing for telehealth/telemedicine services; another 18% either did so or are currently considering it in response to the pandemic.

With workers reporting higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression, it’s becoming increasingly clear that COVID-19 is taking a toll on people’s mental health. According to the survey results, 10% of respondents added telepsychiatry/telemental health benefits (i.e., access to mental/behavioural health services via telephone or virtual meeting) during the pandemic, and another 15% are currently considering it.

Even once the pandemic is over, virtual health may prove to be a highly effective tool that helps plan members get the support they need—when they need it the most.

Want to know more about the future of virtual health in Canada? Read our recent blog on this topic.

Learn More About the Impact of COVID-19

Download the full report: Impact of COVID-19 on Pensions and Benefits in Canada to learn more about how employers are reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report is available free to International Foundation and ISCEBS members.

Find more coronavirus-related resources for employers on the Foundation’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources page.

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Alyssa Hodder
Alyssa Hodder
Director, Education and Outreach – Canada

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