Canadian employees want easier access to mobile apps that allow them to connect directly and instantly with nurses, physicians and other health professionals to help bridge the gap with traditional healthcare, according to a new study.

A study commissioned by Medisys Health Group, a Canadian provider of employee wellness programs and executive health benefits, found that two out of three Canadians would use virtual health care if it was provided in their employee benefits package.

Virtual healthcare can include mobile apps, texting, video chat and any other ‘virtual’ way of receiving valid medical advice, help or support that doesn’t involve the traditional method of physically going to visit a healthcare professional that are typically offered by work health benefits.

Currently, only nine per cent of employee benefit plans include virtual care coverage, the study found.

Around “71 per cent of Canadians are willing to trade off current benefits for improved access to healthcare professionals and technology-supported services like virtual care,” stated a press release.

“Average smartphone usage has increased by 60 per cent over the past three years. This, coupled with ongoing access barriers and supply and demand challenges within our healthcare system makes it clear why Canadians are looking to supplement traditional doctor’s office visits with virtual consults,” Dr. Vivien Brown, VP of medical affairs at Medisys Corporate Health said in the release.

The study survey more than 1,500 full and part-time employees over the age of 18 in Canada. Parents, caregivers, those dealing with chronic illness, and millennials are the most likely to support these type of virtual healthcare options.

They stated the benefits of access to virtual healthcare includes, easier access during late hours and weekends, avoiding wait times at urgent care facilities for minor problems, and less time missed at work.

They also noted that it would offer more regular visits with a healthcare professional and less stress overall when it comes to healthcare concerns.

According to Medisys, employees are not the only ones that would benefit from this type of healthcare package. Citing research published by Benefits Canada, the report stated that Canadians take of two to six days per year for physician-related visits, and each five-minute visit takes away approximately two hours of time from the workplace.

“The financial benefit of virtual care equates to thousands of dollars in savings per employee annually, attributed solely to reduced absenteeism,” stated the release.

Medisys also argues that virtual healthcare could help with mental health. For example, offering access to mobile apps that include mental health services could encourage employees to seek help with mental or emotional health issues.

According to Statistics Canada, around 4.8 million Canadians do not have a primary healthcare provider. Virtual healthcare options offer a strong alternative to people visiting emergency rooms to renew prescriptions for example. Medisys stated that studies show that 70 per cent that these type of unnecessary ER visits can be replaced by online consultations.

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