I have always been passionate about healthcare. Early in my life I thought I would become a doctor until I realized the sight of blood made me almost keel over. So when I let go of a future in medicine years ago, I never imagined I would be leading a virtual care division of Canada’s largest health IT company.
My journey to becoming vice president of virtual care at TELUS Health was, by no means, a linear path. I leaned into my passion for technology and interest in business strategy and began working for two global management consulting firms that took me all around the world, giving me the opportunity to explore various industries including healthcare.
Through the years, I’ve worn many hats at different businesses – from CEO of a start-up media company and digital strategy lead at a national media company, to healthcare strategy consultant. What I found was that I felt most fulfilled when working on health projects that gave me the opportunity to make a real impact in people’s lives.
In 2012, I joined an innovative and forward-looking personalized care management company that was then providing care navigation and clinical advice to globally travelling executives, and their family members, with nurses over the phone. Even in its early iteration, I could see that this model of care had incredible potential to not only bridge time and distance for patients but also transform the way we all access healthcare. At a time when more sophisticated mobile health apps were just coming to market, we set off on a journey to develop a virtual care app that would broaden the reach of our service and bring much-needed support to many more Canadians.
Nine years later, through key relationships in the insurance and benefits space, and a client base that includes Canada’s largest employers, we had grown the company into one of Canada’s leading virtual care providers.
The next phase
We experienced what I call hockey stick growth – a gradual start that shot right up. The company had reached a tipping point and we knew that to further scale our service, we had one of two options: raise significant capital or develop a strategic partnership. In the end, we knew that with the right partnership we would be stronger.
It was important to me that we partner with a like-minded organization, one that believes in helping people achieve a better quality of life by first addressing health. I wanted a group that shared our values and would support our goal of improving access to care. With its decade-long track record delivering innovative health solutions and leveraging its infrastructure to extend the reach of digital health services, it quickly became clear that TELUS Health was the right home for us.
Joining forces with TELUS Health in late 2020 was a complex, yet highly rewarding process. With TELUS Health having acquired Akira, another solid employer-focused virtual care service just the year prior, the merging of our companies was, in fact, the integration of two startups into a corporate environment.
During the integration, a combined breadth of expertise, experiences, and relationships allowed us to bring the best of both solutions to more customers. In this case, one plus one truly did equal 10 – our growth together would be exponentially greater than it would have been apart.
Forging a new path
This past April, we officially launched our integrated offerings into a single robust, human-first virtual care service – TELUS Health Virtual Care. This next evolution of virtual care in the company’s national, employer-focused service is built on more than 35 years of combined experience and offers more than 2.8 million Canadians with 24/7 bilingual, on-demand access to non-emergent primary care, mental health support, and allied health services.
Leveraging the power of technology to strengthen human connections, our services are delivered by empathetic, compassionate Canadian healthcare professionals who guide employees throughout their healthcare journey, with a human touch. With the pandemic escalating both physical and mental health concerns, our service offers timely and convenient access to personalized care to empower employers to better support the wellbeing of their people.
COVID-19 has certainly accelerated the adoption of virtual care across the country, and demand for the service will continue to grow. It’s become an absolute necessity to complement existing health services.
So, what’s next?
I envision a two-pronged future for virtual care. First, I expect the service to move towards prevention, by harnessing human connection and a compassionate viewpoint to gently guide people towards healthier choices before they get sick. And second, the service will address more complex health issues like chronic disease and disability, more comprehensively, by developing relationships with people that span multiple specialties, allowing our service to become their medical “front door.”
When I think about it today, these hopes and what our team has been able to achieve to date are not far afield from my aspirations of becoming a clinician. I have always wanted to help people. While I’m not in a doctor’s office directly treating patients, it brings me great fulfilment knowing our work is helping improve health experiences for Canadians.