As provinces re-open, Canadians wary of hands-on healthcare – but bullish on new virtual options

Toronto, ON (May 12, 2020) – As Canadian provinces and their economies slowly begin to re-open, a survey on consumer attitudes towards use of healthcare services reveals hesitancy to return to pre-pandemic behaviour without a COVID-19 vaccine. It also reveals a rapidly increasing interest in virtual healthcare services that eliminate physical interaction between patient and health provider.

In a survey of over 500 Green Shield Canada (GSC) health benefits plan members, a majority of respondents indicated a likelihood of them attending a normal visit to the dentist (62%) in the pre-vaccine period, but a full 25% indicated they would not. When it came to paramedical services such as physiotherapy, massage and chiropractic services, only a minority of respondents indicated an intention to attend in-person appointments in a pre-vaccine environment, even if needed – 34% for physiotherapy, 29% for massage and 28% for chiropractic care.

“It was an interesting exercise to measure Canadians’ attitudes about attending medical appointments that would have given them no pause only a few months ago,” explains GSC’s Executive Vice President of Digital, Innovation and Brand Experience, David Willows. A majority of respondents – 61% – also expressed an expectation that healthcare professionals will greet them in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for any in-person interaction and 79% would want an understanding of the health and safety procedures in any medical office setting before entering. “Clearly, this crisis and the required physical distancing has changed the entire healthcare environment”, added Willows.

Conversely, the survey showed there is a much-increased interest and confidence in virtual (text/video-based) healthcare than before the current health crisis:

  • 74% of respondents indicated a willingness to use a virtual service to consult with a physician
  • 67% would fill a prescription from an online pharmacy
  • 43% would seek online mental health support – with 63% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 open to the concept
  • A quarter of respondents expressed interest in virtual physiotherapy and 19% for virtual chiropractic consultations

Suggestive of a re-thinking of traditional, private health benefits plans (funded by individuals or employers/unions), 78% of respondents believe their plans should include virtual healthcare options from now on and over half (56%) indicated the current health crisis has made them more open to using online healthcare.

“This is a dramatic shift in interest and attitude to virtual health,” Willows adds. “For a number of years, we have promoted newly available virtual services to sponsors of health benefits plans, with very slow uptake.” But in a concurrent survey GSC conducted with decision-makers for private plans, 69% stated that their organization will be more likely to include virtual health services in their plans going forward.

“In total, our survey data suggests that suppliers of traditional healthcare will need to confront and act on the hesitancy of many former patients to re-engage in previously standard treatments. In addition, providers of health benefits plans – both private payors and Government – will need to consider their next moves in increasing access to virtual services whose conveniences and safety Canadians are likely to seek out in both a pre- and post-vaccine world.”

About Green Shield Canada

GSC is Canada’s fourth-largest health and dental benefits provider, and is uniquely structured as a social enterprise with the purpose of making it easier for people to live their healthiest lives. From coast-to-coast, our service delivery includes drug, dental, extended health care, vision, hospital, and travel benefits for groups and individuals, as well as administration and benefits management services. Supported by outcomes-based sustainability strategies, advanced technology, and exceptional customer service, GSC creates innovative programs for nearly four million plan participants nationwide. For more information, visit

Source: Green Shield Canada

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