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Benefits of telemedicine for the construction industry

By Mary-Lou MacDonald

 

In 2017, 4.7 million Canadians 12 and over didn’t have a family doctor to see regularly.1

Today, many are wondering how important that family doctor really is. After all, you can always pop into a walk-in clinic or an urgent care centre if you get sick, or you can ignore that sore throat and nagging cough and hope it goes away on its own.

 

For those in the construction industry, where shift work is the norm, it can be tough to schedule a regular appointment with a doctor, let alone a last-minute sick visit. Canada is one of only three countries in the world that doesn’t have a national paid sick day policy.2 So a construction worker may not have any paid sick days, and a trip to the doctor if they even have one isn’t just a challenge to co-ordinate, but also a financial hit they may not be able to afford.

 

Enter telemedicine. Until recently, it was the rare construction company that was offering telemedicine options to their employees. However, the urgent necessity of social distancing and the potential overwhelming of the medical system due to COVID-19 have pushed many construction companies to look for unconventional solutions.

 

Although some employers may be tempted to commit to the first telemedicine provider they come across online, it’s still worth keeping a few considerations in mind before signing up:

 

 

Know what you are buying. The cheapest option or the fastest onboarding process may be important today, but make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Often, the less expensive options offer just a thin layer of coverage rather than more comprehensive coverage, longer wait times, a cap on the number of visits, limited hours or by-appointment only.

 

 

Understand the different models. Some digital health providers offer widespread, supportive coverage, while others address only a specific area, such as mental health support or online pharmacy. Understanding the way each provider offers coverage can help determine which version will work best for employees.

 

 

Learn about cyber risks. Make sure to ask questions about data storage, managing patient records, platform security and quality controls. Clarify the ways patient information is shared with their regular physicians – and whether any aggregated data is provided to the employer. This is important information for future intervention program planning. Finally, consider any education and support for new users.

 

 

Manage employee expectations. One of the biggest benefits of telemedicine is convenience. The most comprehensive providers offer bilingual service, available 24/7, 365 days a year. They offer support through video, telephone and webchat. They also offer integrated care management, with a real person, and navigation throughout the entire patient journey. They also share patient records with the family doctor. However, most providers don’t offer this kind of coverage, so employers may need to manage their employees’ expectations or match the service to their needs.

 

Try it out. It can be challenging to commit to a new service from an unfamiliar provider, especially when under pressure to select one. The good news is that a number of providers are offering short term contracts because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers should take advantage of this; a short-term contract can provide a good introduction to a new service. If the goal is to offer something as soon as possible in response to the pandemic, it may be enough to choose a short-term contract. Make sure the contract offers basic coverage for physical and mental health support, referrals to specialists and paramedical professionals, and the ability to write and maybe even deliver prescriptions. Want coverage with care management and navigation? Ask about that up front and look for a reliable company to trust.

 

The last thing employers want is employees coming to work sick. Even as restrictions related to the pandemic loosen, a second wave of COVID-19 on the job site can cost a company time and money. Finding the right telemedicine services provider can help avoid those problems.

 

Mary-Lou MacDonald is the national practice lead, health and performance for HUB International. As a pioneer in the field of workplace wellness, she has spearheaded many ground-breaking initiatives that have paved the way for leaders to understand and adopt healthy and high performing workplace practices and strategy.

 

 

References

Primary health care providers, 2017, Statistics Canada, www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-625-x/2019001/article/00001-eng.htm.

The myths and truths about paid sick days, http://ontario.psac.com/sites/ontario/files/paid_sick_days_myths.pdf.

 

 

 

 

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.