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Innovation & COVID-19: what have we learned?

By François Gratton, Executive Vice-president, TELUS Group President and Chair, TELUS Health and TELUS Québec.

I’ve worked in information technology for more than 20 years, and like many of you, I never anticipated living through such a radically transformative time. Almost overnight, the adoption of technology and our need for connectivity accelerated at lightning speed. This represents an extremely demanding challenge for our teams who have one goal in mind: make a difference for all Canadians, every day.

The COVID-19 crisis has reframed how we work and interact with our customers. It has also prompted a collective re-examination of how we take care of the people around us.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the pandemic has wrought profound human tragedies. It has strained our healthcare system so much that we are at a turning point in its evolution in Canada. We still have significant challenges ahead, which will have a major impact on every aspect of our lives in the months – and years – to come.

Four lessons we’ve learned from COVID-19

1. Better support massive patient influx and provide greater protection to our health professionals

Within a matter of days, our healthcare system became overwhelmed and our leaders had to make a 180-degree turn to prioritize treatment for patients with COVID-19. This isolated a large population of other patients, many of whom lack resources and are anxious about their illnesses. While solutions to connect patients with doctors and other practitioners already existed, they had not yet been adopted on a large scale.

2. Prioritize employee health and safety in executive decision making Even though employee health and safety are important priorities to businesses, most companies were not prepared to face a pandemic. TELUS was well-equipped to ensure the health and safety of our team and customers, particularly those in our medical clinics across the country and the 600 or so health professionals (nurses, doctors, mental health specialists, etc.) working to provide quality healthcare through our solutions and services.

3. Strengthen mental health support According to Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC), 5% of Canadians reported high-to-extreme levels of anxiety before the crisis. Five weeks later, that number has multiplied to 20%. In addition, self-reported cases of depression have more than doubled, from 4% to 10%. This is one reason why we need to make sure that psychological support is accessible to as many people as possible when they need it most.

4. Increase quality of care for seniors The pandemic is shining a harsh light on the weaknesses of our long-term care facilities, especially the flaws in the control and monitoring of chronic diseases. Seniors living alone and in lockdown are potentially at greater risk and families don’t always have the time or flexibility to provide the necessary support.

All of these factors have highlighted the importance of accelerating digital transformation in the healthcare space to ensure people are able to access to quality care safely and easily.

The growth of virtual care

Recent experience has served as a catalyst for virtual care, freeing up capacity in our hospitals and offering better access to health services, particularly for the five million Canadians whodon’t have access to a family doctor.

Several virtual care solutions allow us to reduce the burden on our health system, reduce absenteeism at work, boost productivity, offer psychological support and increase talent retention. For example, applications like Akira by TELUS Health and Babylon by TELUS Health allow access to secure virtual consultations with health professionals. Remote patient monitoring is available through several digital platforms, including video consultations using electronic medical records, home health monitoring and fall detection devices, such as LivingWell Companion™.

All technology solutions share one thing in common. They rely on robust networks to ensure continued productivity across businesses and public organizations. Our team’s exceptional efforts to support this have been repeatedly recognized, with accolades from Open Signal, Ookla, J.D. Power, PC Mag and Tutela, confirming TELUS has the fastest and most extensive network in Canada.

Emerging opportunities

The COVID-19 crisis has triggered major changes in our lives and, in particular, greater awareness of health and wellness in our society. Organizations now have important questions to consider:

  • How will you adapt to your employees’ acute concerns regarding physical and mental health?

  • How will you respond when your competitors integrate virtual healthcare into their business model, reducing their absenteeism rate and optimizing their productivity?

  • How will you attract, retain and mobilize generations Y and Z, who in keeping with their lifestyles, are looking for flexible digital solutions?

  • How much risk are you prepared to take on by not integrating employee health into your next business plan?

Organizations need to consider these aspects in their strategies. Today more than ever, access to healthcare is everyone’s business. Above all, organizations have tremendous opportunities to seize as we write this new page in our history.

To learn about the many ways TELUS is helping to improve the healthcare experience, visit