Healthcare at your fingertips? It’s not so far-fetched.
New healthcare technologies are emerging every day that have a significant impact on a person’s life (consider 3D-printed replacement organs, smart inhalers or newer, better prosthetics), but there is one that might just be bringing health services to your home – telemedicine.
What is Telemedicine?
Broadly speaking, telemedicine (sometimes referred to as telehealth, although they mean slightly different things) is a technology that allows the remote delivery of healthcare services.
Telemedicine refers to a wide distribution of services, including healthcare visits, physiotherapy, psychotherapy, and even dentistry! Regardless of how it’s used, telemedicine is poised to change the way in which people interact with their physicians, receive care, and get their prescriptions.
The Benefits of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is quickly becoming an emerging trend in the group benefits industry for a few reasons:
- It provides remote access. Telemedicine allows access to healthcare services from almost anywhere, bringing a greater level of access to care and more convenience for the user.
- It costs less. A virtual visit will generally cost less than an in-person visit, especially when you factor in additional time spent driving to and from the Doctor’s office and money spent on gas.
- It’s faster. In a country like Canada, which has one of the longest wait times to see a Doctor in the world, it’s far quicker to whip out your phone and use a telemedicine service for a consultation than it would be to sit in a waiting room.
Quick note – Although telemedicine provides these benefits, these services are generally considered to work best as a compliment to in-person care, rather than a replacement entirely. Telemedicine shouldn’t be putting Doctors out of jobs, but improving their ability to interact with and treat their patients! As Tim Clarke, President of tc Health Consulting Inc., said on our recent webinar:
Telemedicine allows continuous care to a patient by monitoring their progress, provide additional information and even recommendations between face-to-face visits.
Telemedicine in Canada
While the telemedicine industry is still new, and uptake in Canada is slower than originally thought, we don’t anticipate it going anywhere (quite the opposite, in fact). Questions remain as to exactly who or what will be responsible for the costs associated with telemedicine in the future.
Telemedicine is not currently covered by most provincial health plans in Canada (with the exception of British Columbia), and it’s not clear whether the onus for telemedicine will go to employers, Insurers or the government. On a recent webinar, we polled our Advisors audience to get their opinion on where they thought telemedicine would be in five years as it relates to employer benefits. Here’s what they said:
As you can see, telemedicine is still in its infancy and it’s difficult to predict what kind of effect it will have on healthcare in Canada, but one thing is certain – it will have an effect.
You can learn more about telemedicine in Canada by checking out our webinar recording, featuring Tim Clarke, President of tc Health Consulting Inc., discussing the global and Canadian telemedicine landscape, the challenges the technology faces, and more!