Innovations in Health and Well-Being in Canada

A recent International Foundation webcast Health on Demand Survey Results: Delivering the Right Digital Tools in the Right Way explored innovations in health and well-being utilizing the latest technologies, treatments and creative solutions to enhance employee’s physical, emotional and financial well-being and improve employers’ financial and organizational health.

The webcast covered the findings from the Mercer study Health On Demand: Canada Report which explores the attitudes, needs, desires and trepidations of workers when it comes to the future of health. In addition, the study aims to compare and contrast the views of workers with those of C-suite and other senior-level decision makers to glean insights and identify gaps between the groups. Takeaways from this study will help companies make critical health care decisions over the next five years.

Innovations in Health and Well-Being in Canada

Here are five key takeaways for Canadian plan sponsors:

1. There is a strong business case for digital health.

Corporate investment in worker health and well-being will grow in the next five years, with digital health solutions being a critical part of this growth. Some insights from responding Canadian employers include the following.

  • 95% say health and well-being are a priority for their organizations.
  • 70% report that they expect an investment in digital health and well-being to have some or a lot of impact on worker engagement.
  • 54% of employers are likely to invest in digital health in the next five years.
  • 64% believe digital health and well-being solutions will have some or a lot of impact on staff energy levels.

2. Workers value patient-centred solutions.

Workers want improved access to quality health care that is personal, convenient, affordable and secure. These needs were rated as very or extremely important:

  • How well health care professionals understand and treat patient needs (76%)
  • Cost to workers/patients (67%)
  • Access to latest treatments, drugs and medical equipment (64%)
  • Waiting times for appointments, including specialists (62%)
  • Reputation of the hospitals, clinics and places providing medical care (62%).

Employers can use digital health tools to assist in delivering health care to workers. Ninety-three percent of Canadian workers are willing (very, mostly, or somewhat) to try one or more of the 15 digital health care tools tested in the survey, including:

  • An app that helps them find the right doctor or medical care when and where it’s needed (80%)
  • Personal individual and family medical records that are electronic and portable (79%)
  • An app that helps them find an expert doctor based on their diagnosis anywhere in the world (76%)
  • Telemedicine services for simple health issues (75%)
  • Self-managing health conditions using wearable technology (73%).

3. There are low barriers to digital health adoption, with a high level of trust in employers.

Overall, the study found that barriers to digital health usage and engagement are surprisingly low, and trust levels in employers are very high. Specifically:

  • 69% of Canadian workers report having either some or a great deal of trust in their employer’s ability to keep their personal health information secure.
  • Only 20% of employers are unwilling to invest in digital health, due primarily to the difficulty in quantifying the cost benefit as well as the complexity of implementing and administering solutions or other important priorities.
  • More than one-half of workers are willing to share personal health information to ensure the highest quality medical care and personalized health care.
  • 48% of workers are more confident in digital health solutions promoted or sponsored by their employers.

When asked what made them unwilling to try certain digital health innovators, workers most often cited:

  • A preference for human attention (44%)
  • A lack of personal need (41%)
  • A distrust of data privacy of security (40%), or health care computerized algorithms (40%).

[Related Reading: Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Employees and Plan Participants]

4. Workers can be clustered into four distinct segments based on several characteristics.

There are four different worker segments based on their attitudes toward health innovations, their confidence in digital health solutions sponsored by employers and their likelihood of staying with an employer offering these solutions. The groups include:

  • “Sign Me Up” (39% of the overall group)—This group is defined by their tech savviness. They are typically part of the Millennial generation and are less likely to leave an employer who offers digital health solutions. In addition, they are more willing to try digital health solutions and more confident in employer-sponsored digital health solutions.
  • “Impress Me” (15% of the overall group)—The “impress me” segment is also tech savvy, but not as loyal to their employers. They are more likely to leave an employer who offers digital health solutions, more willing to try digital innovations—but not necessarily though an employer—and more confident in trying employer-sponsored health solutions.
  • “Get Me Comfortable” (40% of the overall group)—This segment is defined by a mix of vocations and generations. They are less likely to leave an employer who offers digital health solutions and more willing to try digital health innovations, but they are less confident in trying employer-sponsored digital health solutions.
  • “Not for Me” (6% of the overall group)—The remaining 6% fall into the “not for me” segment, which is defined by older, more tech-skeptical workers. They are less likely to leave their employer, less willing to try digital health innovations and less confident in trying employer-sponsored health solutions.

5. There is a high demand for a “pro-health” work environment.

A “pro-health environment” is critical for workers. For solutions to be believable and to gain adoption, they need to be delivered within a culture that genuinely values people’s health and well-being.

  • When asked what employers could do to help promote health and well-being at work, 38% of Canadian workers and 29% of Canadian employers wanted the company they work for to foster a more “pro-health” environment.
  • Among those willing to use one or more digital initiatives, workers are willing to try and average of six of the possible 15 initiatives presented to them. This speaks to the need for variety in these offerings.
  • Workers and employers agree on the need for time off to see health care professionals and for a more favourable work environment for health. Most importantly, employers also want to see better access to mental health counselling services and more digital health resources.

Learn More

Tune in to the on-demand webcast Health on Demand Survey Results: Delivering the Right Digital Tools in the Right Way to learn more.

Justin Held, CEBS
Senior Research Analyst at the International Foundation 

The latest from Word on Benefits:

Justin Held, CEBS

Senior Research Analyst at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation Service: Foundation Research Surveys


Benefits Related Topics That Interest Him Most: Behavioral economics, socially responsible investing, apprenticeship training


Personal Insight: Justin loves everything baseball, visiting and checking off ballparks as he travels. In this free time, he enjoys hiking at national parks, cycling and reading about U.S. history.

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