Most employers recognize that common illnesses, mental health issues and chronic conditions (i.e. non-occupational health concerns) within their workforce can significantly affect their organization’s productivity and bottom line. Virtual care can deliver practical, cost-effective employee health benefits to offset some of these concerns.
However, while virtual care has been widely adopted in Europe and Asia, it’s still gaining traction in Canada. As a result, separating fact from fiction regarding this technology can be challenging.
We’ve rounded up 10 common myths about virtual care to help uncover the truth about this emerging Canadian healthcare model.
MYTH 1: VIRTUAL CARE PROFESSIONALS CANNOT TREAT PATIENTS EFFECTIVELY.
A recent study1 in British Columbia reported that 79% of patients who participated in a virtual medical visit believed the standard of care was equal to that of an in-person appointment. Moreover, 91% said the online visit helped them with their health issues.2
During a virtual consultation using Medisys On-Demand, in the unlikely event that the clinician is unable to provide optimal care, the patient will be referred either to the nearest clinic or to their family physician. If the clinician determines the patient’s symptoms are severe or the situation is critical, the patient will be directed to the closest emergency room. In both cases, the clinician will contact patients within 48 hours for a follow-up to ensure their health is in good hands.
Learn more about the benefits of virtual care for employers, barriers to adoption, return on investment, and more.
MYTH 2: VIRTUAL CARE CAN ONLY TREAT PHYSICAL HEALTH CONCERNS.
Scheduling challenges, lack of time and poor flexibility continue to make it difficult for Canadians to prioritize their mental and emotional health. Over 60% of people suffering from mental illness don’t seek help due to the perceived or real stigma surrounding their condition.3
Virtual mental healthcare services can alleviate this fear through convenient, confidential mental health consultations — carried out anytime, anywhere, as soon as support is needed. What’s more, new research suggests 90% of behavioural and mental health services can successfully be delivered virtually.4
There are numerous benefits to addressing mental health issues through virtual care:
• Speed: As time is crucial in dealing with most mental health concerns, patients can obtain rapid medical attention virtually, without having to wait for a clinic appointment and before their symptoms worsen.
• Privacy: Patients can receive private health advice for sensitive issues from the comfort of their homes, alleviating the real or perceived stigma surrounding sitting in a waiting room to obtain care.
• Accessibility: With 60% of North American workers facing more mental health and substance abuse issues than they did two years ago5, putting mental wellness at our fingertips is a convenient modern solution for accessing these increasingly necessary services.
MYTH 3: WITH VIRTUAL CARE, EMPLOYEES CAN EASILY FAKE SYMPTOMS TO GET SICK NOTES.
As with any doctor, it’s possible for an employee to fake an illness in order to obtain a sick note. However, Medisys On-Demand employs experienced Canadian healthcare professionals who are as qualified as your family doctor or nurse practitioner.
Moreover, clinicians will only write sick notes (for a maximum of three days) if deemed medically necessary following a video consultation to confirm the patient’s identity and health status. Our virtual care practitioners can also access patients’ medical files and history for better diagnostic accuracy.
MYTH 4: WITH VIRTUAL CONSULTATIONS, IT’S TOO EASY TO GET PRESCRIPTIONS FOR ANTIBIOTICS.
Virtual care clinicians are held to the same standard as practitioners in brick-and-mortar clinics. They are also aware of the over-prescription of antibiotics, and work to find the best solution for each patient. If the clinician believes a physical test is necessary to determine whether an infection is viral or bacterial, the patient will be referred for testing.
MYTH 5: PERSONAL VIRTUAL CARE ACCOUNTS CAN EASILY BE SHARED WITH RELATIVES SO THEY CAN USE THE SERVICE.
Virtual care platforms take security and privacy seriously. Most platforms are secured, and with Medisys On-Demand, users are required to authenticate their accounts with picture ID. In order to write a prescription, clinicians require a video consult to confirm the patient’s identity.
With a Medisys On-Demand account, employees can invite family members to use the service; however, their partners must set up their own account and user authentication. Children over 14 can also have their own accounts, with consent. No personal information is shared within families to ensure each account holder can consult privately and address highly-personal issues.
MYTH 6: VIRTUAL CARE IS ONLY USEFUL FOR BENIGN, COMMON HEALTH ISSUES LIKE COLDS.
Virtual care goes beyond treating common health issues. While some diagnostics, emergency care and disease management still require in-person assessments, many non-occupational health concerns can and are being successfully treated virtually — with no waiting, travel or time off work required. For many users, virtual care helps manage a variety of issues such as assessing non-occupational injuries, dealing with anxiety and depression, managing chronic conditions and other complex health problems.
MYTH 7: VIRTUAL CARE DEVALUES THE DOCTOR/PATIENT RELATIONSHIP.
Medisys On-Demand and similar platforms are not meant to replace a family doctor or an occupational physician. In fact, information about virtual visits can be shared with other health professionals (with the patient’s consent) to keep them updated on any changes to that person’s health status.
Numerous studies have found that virtual care consults can successfully replace office visits in many situations, without compromising the quality of care and communication between patient and physician. The American Journal of Managed Care recently published a multi-year study revealing that 62% of responding patients reported the quality of virtual video visits was no different from that of office visits, and 68% of patients rated virtual video visits at a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale.6 Clinicians also overwhelmingly report virtual video visits are superior to office visits for timely scheduling of patient appointments and for visit efficiency.
MYTH 8: PATIENTS WILL END UP SPEAKING TO A DOCTOR IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, WHO DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEET CANADIAN STANDARDS.
While we can’t guarantee the quality of care on all virtual care platforms, Medisys On-Demand only works with experienced Canadian physicians and registered nurses. Every time patients log in, they will speak with a clinician within their region, who follows and is governed by the same provincial regulations as the patient’s own family physician.
MYTH 9: USING A VIRTUAL CARE PLATFORM IS NOT SECURE.
Medisys On-Demand takes the security and confidentiality of your sensitive health information seriously. To maintain this confidentiality, health records and conversation history are fully encrypted and stored in an ISO 27001 and ISO 27018-certified data centre located in Canada. With these measures in place, 94% of patients reported confidence in the security and privacy of their personal information when using a virtual care service.7
In addition, every healthcare consultation remains fully confidential — just like appointments with a family doctor. Only the patient and the care team are allowed to access information in their medical records. We can share this information with primary care physicians if warranted, but only with the patient’s consent.
MYTH 10: WITH VIRTUAL CARE, IT’S POSSIBLE TO REUSE A DRUG PRESCRIPTION SEVERAL TIMES.
Although prescription medications are often necessary components of a therapeutic plan, they are sometimes used inappropriately. To combat this, each prescription written by a clinician over Medisys On-Demand is sent directly to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice to be filled. This enables our healthcare professionals to track patients’ use of this drug therapy, and detect potential misuse. Prescription renewals are only provided when medically necessary.
Interested in learning more about Medisys On-Demand? Contact us today!
1, 2. https://www.infoway-inforoute.ca/en/myths
5. Benefits Canada (2019) Mental health and substance abuse issues on the rise: survey, retrieved from: www. benefitscanada.com