November 26, 2020
Dusan Baic

The Doctor Waiting Game

November 26, 2020
Dusan Baic

Going to see a doctor can be quite the experience. When health issues pop up, they really do "pop up" because they come barging in unannounced and demand immediate attention. When I'm in these situations I'm often scrambling to find time in between work calls & meetings to reach my family doctor and schedule an appointment. I don't know why but every time I call I always get the voicemail to learn that they are on lunch break and won't be back for another hour. I call an hour later with no answer and end up leaving a voicemail of my own "...once again this is DOO-SHAN BA-ICH my number is 6 - 4 - 7...". Professional phone tag at its finest.

At this point walk-ins are my only option because I can't wait to go tomorrow. But there's a catch. I need to email my manager, cancel all my afternoon meetings and complete what I promised a day late. Oh and then there's COVID lurking outside. But it's my health so I run a quick google search and find the best written template for "How to Notify Your Boss About A Last Minute Appointment". You'd be surprised to see how many comments and views these pages get.

This wrench in my week is a scenario that's is far too common in the workplace. In fact it's probably even more heightened with COVID now because doctors are seeing fewer patients and access is more restricted. This impact is hurting businesses because employees have to skip out on work just to see a doctor when they likely could've done it over the phone. Virtual care or telemedicine is really seeing its shining moment and I think it will change behaviour in how we access medical care. We see the same thing in how people are now buying more groceries online and avoiding the in-person runs. At Beneplan we recognize this growing trend and have since partnered with Maple to expand our group benefits and offer telemedicine to our members.

Telemedicine allows a patient to see a doctor on demand over a call, facetime or laptop - all from the safety of the their home. No waiting, no commuting, and no time off needed. Seeing a doctor can happen over lunch or later in the evening after you send your last work email. According to a study by the Affiliated Workers Associated, 70 percent of doctor’s visits could have taken place virtually. Treating acute medical conditions is really where telemedicine is best at - common ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, cold, fever, flu, headaches, mental health and fulfilling prescriptions. It's not designed to fully replace in person visits but it's there to supplement our healthcare to what can be done virtually.

It offers big cost savings too. A telemedicine appointment costs, on average $79, as compared to $146 for a doctor’s office visit, and $1,734 for an emergency room visit, according to a RAND Corp. study. However these savings is more for the Canadian public healthcare system - but what about the employer?

The average number of absent days for full time employees in Canada is roughly 10 days/year (source). On a conservative level, if we assume 1 absent day will be saved from the convenience of virtual care, a company of 50 employees can save $6,878/year. Here's how the math breaks down: assuming $50,000 salary/employee with 261 workable days, each absent day costs the business $191 per employee. If telemedicine saves 1 absent day per employee, the gross savings is $9,578. Now the cost of telemedicine varies on options but a group of 50 can expect roughly $4.5/employee/month which amounts to $2,700/year. Therefore $9,578 - $2,700 = the net savings of $6,878.  This is a direct cost exercise that's simplified to show only one stroke of the benefits - it  doesn't include all other intangibles such as increased employee mental health, productivity and retention.

Nevertheless telemedicine is not another millennial tech trend that will fizzle out. COVID has expedited its adoption and for good reason too - its value is undeniable and it's definitely here to stay.

To learn more about telemedicine and how it would benefit your workplace, reach out to your advisor and ask them about it. If you are an existing Beneplan member and would like to try virtual care yourself, Beneplan is offering its members 1 free credit per plan group to Maple's telemedicine service.


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