Virtual healthcare and employee benefits during Covid19 in Saskatchewan

3 min read

Virtual healthcare has taken a fast track in Saskatchewan because of Covid19 as many people are now working from and staying home. Today, more employers are starting to consider virtual healthcare as a benefit option for their teams. This trend is likely to continue once the pandemic is over. The Canadian Medical Association states that “growing attention is being paid to the prospect of expanding the role of virtual care in Canada’s publicly funded healthcare system”. Furthermore, 71% of Canadians would like to be able to book medical appointments online, however only 9% of family physicians offer this option.

How does it work?

Virtual healthcare services are typically delivered via a digital app that can be installed on a smartphone, tablet or computer. This technology allows patients to consult a doctor through video, audio, text and live chat. Physicians will provide virtual consultations including diagnosis, advice, prescriptions and specialist referrals.

Employer advantages of virtual healthcare include reduced absenteeism and increased productivity, as this technology facilitates access to a physician or even a specialist faster. There is no need to take time off works to travel to/from a medical clinic to see someone in person. The results are happier and healthier employees!

Today, we are seeing that virtual healthcare has become a vital service during the COVID19 pandemic.

The good news is that employers can have this service as part of their employee benefits package. Some carriers are offering virtual health services at no extra cost or at a discount.

Alternatively, these services can be obtained from virtual care providers through corporate plans.

What options do employers have to offer virtual healthcare with their benefits carrier?

Virtual medical appointments

The ability to see a physician or a specialist via videoconferencing is delivered through carrier partnerships with certain care providers. Additionally, some insurance providers are offering virtual mental health services, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.  It is a good idea to check with your benefits advisor what virtual healthcare options can be available to your company. Moreover, this can be an important consideration when making a choice between benefit carriers.

Prescription drugs: online medication refills and delivery

It is becoming more common for carriers to have partnerships with online pharmacies, as they offer convenience and help reduce drug plan costs. Online pharmacies typically have lower dispensing fees, and medications are delivered directly to a patient’s doorstep.  No waiting at a pharmacy.

Online paramedical practitioner services

Carriers are starting to accept claims for virtual appointments with some paramedical practitioners. Examples include naturopath, chiropractor, registered dietician, psychologist, social worker, physiotherapist and speech therapist.  

Government funded virtual healthcare options in Saskatchewan

Regina based startup company Lumeca was recently approved by The Government of Saskatchewan to provide virtual healthcare services. Virtual care through Lumeca is now available for free to all Saskatchewan residents.

Additionally, Saskatchewan residents have access to a toll-free HealthLine, a telephone service where patients can speak with a registered nurse.

Another option is Telehealth Saskatchewan that provides residents of remote communities with reliable, safe and secure telehealth access to specialists.  Although this service requires patients to go to a specially equipped Telehealth site to use this service, it eliminates the need to travel long distances to major urban centres where specialists are usually located. 

While it’s great to have our government pay for some of these services, publicly funded virtual healthcare options have their limitations. Examples include limited hours and capacity restraints. It is not uncommon to observe longer wait times during periods of high demand such as a pandemic, and access is not typically available 24/7.

Our blog on virtual healthcare has more information about this popular topic.

To learn more about virtual healthcare programs, and how they can work as part of your employee benefits plan, please get in touch with us – we’re happy to help!