The pandemic has impacted industries across the country, but its effects have been felt most profoundly in the healthcare industry. While front-line workers have been working tirelessly to care for patients suffering from COVID-19, Canadians looking to access basic healthcare have faced their own set of challenges: increased wait times at clinics and doctors’ offices, restricted travel options and an increased risk of being exposed to the virus.
Beyond the extra burden placed on the system by the pandemic, access to healthcare is an ongoing challenge that Canadians have been facing for years. As a matter of fact, 4.8 million Canadians do not have a family doctor, making it difficult to get the routine medical care they need when they need it.
So, what’s the solution?
That’s a big question, but let’s start with telehealth and the crucial role it’s playing in making healthcare accessible to more Canadians.
Telehealth is not an entirely new concept in Canada — essentially, it means that you can receive care remotely through things like email, chat, and video or audio calls. Video and audio calls need to happen in real time, so they’re not always the most convenient option.
With telehealth companies like Felix, you receive care on your schedule — meaning you and a doctor don’t need to be in the same place at the same time. This model provides you the freedom to reach out whenever is convenient for you — whether it’s on the streetcar, lying in bed at 2 a.m., or during a quick lunch break.
Along with the ease of being able to speak to a Canadian healthcare practitioner from the comfort of your couch, here are some other ways that telehealth is breaking down the barriers to healthcare access:
Eliminating travel and wait times
Waiting is a defining characteristic of the healthcare system in Canada, whether you’re waiting at the clinic, doctor’s office or the pharmacy. As a matter of fact, 7 out of 10 Canadians have skipped seeing a doctor due to wait times — and folks looking to see a specialist have to wait an average of 21 weeks.
Telehealth eliminates the wait, offering flexibility and convenience by allowing patients to access care when it works best for them. By accessing healthcare online, we can better serve people who live in busy cities as well as Canadians who live in rural areas. The cherry on top with an end-to-end service like Felix is the convenience of having prescriptions delivered directly to your door. No more waking up and realizing you forgot to refill your prescription — patients can schedule their refills so that their health is always taken care of.
Addressing stigmatized health issues
Telehealth companies offer a discreet and safe space for Canadians to seek care for their stigmatized health concerns that often go untreated due to feelings of embarrassment. One advantage of chat or email through secure messaging portals is that it can make it easier to talk about uncomfortable topics like erectile dysfunction, birth control or mental health.
Reaching Canadians in rural areas
Access to healthcare in rural areas has long been an issue in Canada. Rural Canadians do not have equal access to health care services compared to their urban counterparts. Roughly 18% (over 6 million) of Canada’s population lives in rural areas; however, only 8% of Canadian doctors serve those areas.
For Canadians in these areas experiencing difficulty accessing healthcare, turning to telehealth may be a solution. Felix’s frictionless direct-to-consumer platform improves patient access and outcomes for a growing number of chronic and preventative health conditions, making it easier than ever for rural Canadians to get the healthcare that they need.
Lifting the burden off of those on the frontline
The pandemic has taught many Canadians that there are some health conditions that require an in-person visit and some that can be addressed virtually. While telehealth is built around the patient experience, it also allows those working on the frontline to focus on more serious health conditions or those who might not have access to virtual care.
As our world continues to adapt and change with technology, telehealth will continue to be a growing channel for healthcare access in Canada.
While it might not be the entire solution to the ongoing access problem across the country, it plays an instrumental role in changing the way that Canadians engage in healthcare by empowering them to take control of their health when and where they are able.