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February 1, 2017 • read
Telehealth in Canada: why we decided to launch Canada’s first 24/7 virtual doctor’s office
We’ve all been there. The blistering, sore throat that greets you first thing in the morning, the late night fever that interrupts your child’s peaceful sleep, or that drawn-out sigh that follows the unfortunate discovery that you’ve run out of medication. We know that scheduling a doctor’s appointment could take days. The thought of sitting for hours in a crowded walk-in clinic or ER to receive routine medical care does not feel comfortable.
Why does it have to be so hard? You can pull up an app for a taxi or food delivery. You can access almost every service imaginable online, to make life a little easier. But healthcare? Despite tremendous technological advances, we’re essentially operating the same way we did 100 years ago. Meanwhile, millions of people globally are tapping into a new, revolutionary way of receiving healthcare – online, via telehealth.
Telehealth (aka telemedicine, e-health) is the remote delivery of healthcare using interactive text, audio, and video technology. It has seen massive adoption in other countries. As a complement to traditional healthcare delivery, it allows providers to treat patients beyond the walls of clinics and hospitals.
US hospital system Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest in the world with over 10 million patients, already conducts more than half of its visits virtually through video and instant message.
In the U.K., companies like Babylon Health are seeing hundreds of thousands of patients each year online. Issue resolution rates and patient satisfaction are very high. 91% of patients say they would use telehealth repeatedly for common medical issues. Additionally, according to extensive research and literature, up to 70% of medical issues can be fully treated by telehealth. On a societal level, this brings substantial public benefit by improving access to health by moving personalized primary care into the community, and by freeing up space in overcrowded clinics and ERs.
We believe that it’s time Canadians had access to this modern, convenient form of healthcare, that has proved its value to patients across the world. That’s why a dedicated team of physicians, organizations, and engineers has come together to create Maple. Maple is a 24/7 platform where, with the click of a button, Canadians in need of a doctor’s care are connected to a physician for an online consultation including diagnosis, prescriptions, and sick notes when needed – no appointments, no lengthy intake forms, and no reception desk required.
Our doctors make all the difference
Our doctors are your Canadian family and ER physicians, practicing in local clinics and hospitals. They use their clinical downtime to see patients on Maple, treating a wide range of primary care concerns, such as eye and ear infections, allergic reactions, cold and flu, mental and sexual health issues, minor injuries, and many other conditions that do not require an office visit. Of the thousands of patients on Maple, our doctors have been able to fully resolve 91% of medical issues. For remaining issues not treatable on Maple, doctors can quickly advise if the patient requires an in-person trip to the clinic, or even the ER in emergency situations.
Understanding fees for healthcare services not covered publicly
Due to its novelty, most Canadian provincial health plans do not insure services like Maple. So just like with other uninsured services, like seeing the dentist, there is a fee for the doctor’s care. In the meantime, fees for seeing doctors on Maple are reimbursable under many private health insurance plans, including HSAs.
Similar to dental and drug costs, progressive employers are stepping up to cover telehealth costs for their employees. This trend is expected to accelerate given that in the US, 60% of employers provide telehealth coverage for their employees as a standard benefit. This number is expected to grow to 90% by 2018, due to the proven ability of telehealth to make employees healthier, happier, more productive, and less likely to miss work for medical visits. It is our hope that provincial governments, insurance providers, and employers will choose to fund services like Maple in the future, to increase their accessibility for all Canadians.
As a nation, we pride ourselves on our healthcare system’s public accessibility and excellent physician care. However, as Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. Canada’s healthcare system must embrace change in order to remain a global leader. Through innovation, Maple is on a journey to make healthcare more comfortable for all Canadians. No matter who they are, or where they live, or their ability to access care.
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