We have a healthcare problem in this country.

The number of physicians in Canada grew by 12.5% between 2014 and 2018, while the population grew by 4.6%, according to the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI). In 2018 alone, the CIHI’s count came in at 90,000 physicians nationwide, which roughly comes out to 241 doctors per 100,000 residents, and of those 241,121 are family doctors.

Even further, Statistics Canada says that 4.8 million Canadians don’t have a family doctor, most of whom live in Quebec, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. The problem is that 92% of the country’s doctors work in the cities, which leaves rural areas remain underserved.

Scarcity creates spaces in medical coverage, and some people get shunted to the back of the line in favour of those in stronger need.

We can think of it in terms of another aspect of the divide between rural and urban populations, which manifests in politics as populism, and in technology as the digital divide where because of their remote-ness and distance from economic activity, rural populations miss out on some of the benefits that their urban counterparts enjoy. Like quality healthcare.

But technology may be rising up to bridge the gap between the urban and the rural, at least in terms of medical care.

We’ve been writing about CloudMD Software & Services (DOC.V) telemedicine app and its anticipated effects since COVID-19 made social distancing an imperative. It allows people to access appropriate medical care from their homes, connecting patients with doctors without having to leave the house.

But now there’s another significant healthcare hurdle that needs to be met, that represents another binary that technology will need to bridge. This binary is the difference between physical and mental health, and CloudMD believes it has the solution for that as well.

The company has signed a binding term sheet to acquire Snapclarity, an on-demand digital platform that allows for medical personnel to assess a patient’s risk of mental health disorders. The information can then be used by physicians and mental health practitioners to determine a personalized care plan. It provides access to online resources, a clinical health team and the ability to match the patient with the correct therapists for their individual medical requirements.

The pandemic has provided some interesting challenges, ranging from where to find toilet paper to how to deal with roommates while suffering catastrophic cabin fever to how to avoid actually getting sick when there’s so much misinformation out there. Going outside at the peak of the pandemic felt unnecessarily dangerous, but wholly necessary for our continued mental health.

For some, isolation kills faster and more efficiently than any virus.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is the most serious public health emergency of our lifetime and it has further deepened the mental health crisis we were already facing. Recent data tells us that over 56 per cent of Canadians said the pandemic is having a negative impact on their mental health, with social isolation being the top contributing factor,” said Dr. Essam Hamza, chief executive officer of CloudMD.

The pandemic has shaken up the way we think about healthcare, and made us recognize the requirement to meld physical with mental health management, and CloudMD has an integrated solution to meet that demand.

This acquisition will create the first and only Canadian telemedicine company providing both physical and mental health assessments in their health care package. The combinations of these two facets of health care addresses market demand from direct conversations, market intelligence and enterprise clients, insurers, governments and other entities.

The Snapclarity solution is used by employers and individuals, therapists and insurers, to offer a program that combines intervention with technology and human touch that can meet the needs of mild, moderate and chronic mental health issues. The digital tools in question have been designed by doctors and verified through evidence-based practices that have proven to positively impact outcomes.

“Managing return to work with consideration of mental and physical well-being is critical. Employers no longer have the luxury of offering a marketplace of options, nor can they carry the burden of related expenses. A combined CloudMD and Snapclarity will remove barriers to access while providing the market with hyper personalized, integrated mental and physical health care plans. Individuals and corporations are demanding a holistic continuum of care. We look forward to introducing a continuity of care in managing health utilizing a pioneered approach in supporting an individual’s well-being,” according to Jeff Deriger, president of Snapclarity.

The pandemic has taught us that physical care and mental health are not separate, and can longer be treated as such. So far, employees can focus on one or the other, to the detriment of them both. Now CloudMD together with Snapclarity can address this shifting landscape and offer a solution that addresses both concerns, no matter where their patients are in Canada.

—Joseph Morton

Written By:

Joseph Morton

Joseph is a Vancouver-based author and journalist with both a communications degree and journalism diploma (and a few novels) under his belt. His joie de vivre is to spin difficult technical topics into more human-centric narratives. Buy him a coffee and he'll talk your ear off for hours about privacy issues, blockchain, cryptocurrency and martial arts. Don't talk to him if you're either a tomato, a bully, or if you're not a fan of either 1984 or Tender is the Night. No. You can still talk to him. Just be prepared to be told why you're wrong.

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