The COVID-19 pandemic has made telemedicine an important tool for the overburdened healthcare system. Dialogue, a company providing employers and their staff with a “walk-in clinic that fits in your pocket”, is creating some much-needed breathing room for Canadian healthcare.
While frontline workers are focused on major medical issues including the virus, virtual healthcare providers can cater to many everyday issues. According to Dialogue, over 70% of minor health issues can be solved via telemedicine, so facilitating virtual consults between doctor and patient is a convenient, efficient, and safe solution.
Dialogue has been advocating for telemedicine for years, and the group experienced unprecedented growth due to 2020’s incredible demand. Around 400,000 people accessed their services prior to the outbreak, and that rose to over five million come May.
“We never thought this level of scale-up would be possible,” said co-founder Anna Chif to McGill News. “Dialogue has seen truly exponential growth, scaling 10 times in four weeks. We had to add hundreds of new team members, which more than tripled the size of the team.”
The platform is accessible as an employee benefit with a low fixed cost per employee, and over 25,000 organizations across Canada have signed up. All data is securely stored and complies with regulatory standards to protect patient confidentiality.
Reputable health information around the clock
Dialogue’s assistance is available 24/7, 365 days a year, and patients can choose whether to chat by phone, text, or video. Prescriptions can be renewed and medication can be delivered to homes or offices. Doctors are able to set up referrals to specialists, and bilingual support is also available.
Dialogue also moved into the US market by partnering with Doctor on Demand in December 2019, so Canadian clients can maintain access to virtual healthcare while travelling.
The group expanded the scope of their tools in August with the new Employee Assistance Program. This feature will provide employees with fast access to practitioners from various disciplines to round out the palette of their needs. This includes mental health, legal, and financial services, career counselling, and crisis management.
“As health and wellness continues to be a top priority for organizations, it’s critical that we simplify access to important tools like Employee Assistance Programs and make it as easy as possible for people to get the support they need, as soon as they need it,” said Dialogue COO Jean-Nicolas Guillemette to Newswire.
“We’re building a one-stop-shop solution that breaks down the barriers of current care models and empowers people to take control of their health,” he added.
As the pandemic gathered pace in March, Dialogue released Chloe, an automated medical assistant that provides up-to-date public health information and resources on how to stay safe.
“Having helped the public during the H1N1 and SARS outbreaks, I’ve seen first-hand how the lack of accurate and timely information can impact the containment and mitigation of infection,” said Daniel Lalla, a Dialogue physician, to Newswire.
“The more informed the public is, the more likely it is to take preventative actions to stay healthy or consult with health care providers sooner to increase chances of full recovery.”
For employers, Dialogue is a no-brainer. An average of 9.3 sick days are taken per year in Canada, and 10 absentee days can cost a company upwards of $2,000 annually per employee. At the same time, only half of Canadians are able to access same-day care at a clinic, so facilitating greater access to care for employees can lower these costs and improve performance.
For the staff physicians, Dialogue offers a flexible schedule and the option to work remotely. The administrative team takes care of the paperwork and organization, and there’s a technical team on hand to manage any issues that may arise.
The medical team is made up of over 500 practitioners who are selected for their experience and expertise. The company’s internal medical board performs audits for quality assurance, and physicians are fully trained in how to use the technology so things run smoothly.
A $43-million investment in an essential resource
In July 2020, Dialogue announced a further $43 million in funding led by Sun Life Financial.
“Virtual care will remain an essential resource now and in the future,” said Cherif Habib, CEO of Dialogue, to Private Capital Journal. “While we navigate the changing health care landscape, Dialogue is proud to provide a virtual health care service that is easy, convenient and helps keep Canadians safe at home.
“Having strong support from partners such as Sun Life allows us to remain focused on providing quality care and expanding our services to help millions of Canadians stay healthy.”