Vice President, Consumer Health, Telus
Canada is one of the most medically advanced nations in the world — yet many Canadians still struggle to access health care when they need it most. Here’s how virtual care can help.
Today, five million Canadians do not have a family doctor, and more than half find it difficult to get quick access to after-hours care. “Given this landscape, people are either trying to find an after-hours walk-in clinic, search the Internet, or visit the emergency room,” says Juggy Sihota, Vice President of Consumer Health at Telus. “This situation negatively affects our citizens and the health care system where we already spend about a quarter of a trillion dollars a year,” she says.
Factor in an aging population and longer life spans, and there’s an ever-increasing cost burden to the taxpayer. “We need better solutions to address the challenge of getting timely and appropriate access to care without increasing the overall cost to the system. We believe virtual care technologies are a key part of the solution,” says Sihota.
With virtual care technologies, Canadians can video chat with a doctor, monitor their blood pressure, and manage personal health records, all from the comfort of their own home.Juggy Sihota, Telus
Real-time virtual care can ease care burden
“We know first-hand that digital health solutions are transforming the health landscape, and can empower people to take control of their health,” says Sihota. “With virtual care technologies, Canadians can video chat with a doctor, monitor their blood pressure, and manage personal health records, all from the comfort of their own home.”
In March 2019, Telus partnered with global digital health company Babylon Health to launch a virtual care app that allows users to check symptoms, consult with a doctor, and access health records. Free to download, quick, and available seven days a week — including evenings and holidays — the Babylon by Telus Health app provides a fitting complement to existing health care services.
Among the app’s many features is an AI-based Symptom Checker which asks users about their condition and suggests their next best step, whether that means resting at home or talking to a doctor. “For residents in British Columbia, their journey on the app can go one step further with a video consultation with a local physician,” Sihota says.
Users can even access medical services such as referrals to specialists, new prescriptions or prescription renewals, and requests for imaging tests and bloodwork.
With doctor consultations via Babylon by Telus Health already available in British Columbia and covered through the province’s Medical Services Plan (MSP), the full platform aims to be accessible to all Canadians by the end of 2020. “Canadians need to advocate for these types of solutions to improve access to care on a timely basis,” Sihota adds.
A recent survey by the Canadian Medical Association reported that 70% of Canadians were interested in accessing a physician through virtual care. Solutions like Babylon by Telus Health can allow Canadians to make this a reality.