Healthcare Innovation in Alberta: How Wello is Breaking the Mold
Wello is not only bringing innovation to how Canadians access healthcare – this “made-in-Alberta” service is bringing innovation to the province’s economy. We caught up with Calgarian Kelly Blackshaw, a corporate health pioneer, and Wello’s Business Development Director, to talk about why it’s an exciting time for virtual healthcare (and Alberta).
What were the challenges and opportunities in launching a virtual healthcare company in Alberta?
Our goal was to innovate in the healthcare space similar to how the transportation and hospitality industries have evolved. Whether it’s Airbnb’s accessible options for travelers, or the ease and convenience of Uber – one thing is certain: Canadians can now access convenient and personalized customer experiences. At Wello, we wanted to apply a similar philosophy to healthcare.
Before we launched Wello in May 2017, healthcare innovation in Alberta, like virtual healthcare services, were not an option, so we started from scratch and were the first Canadian company to launch the service with nurse practitioners as care providers. Fast forward to today, one year later, our biggest challenge is educating our members on the capabilities of nurse practitioners. A nurse practitioner can do much of what their family doctor can do – with the added bonus of convenience. Our Wello nurse practitioners can also work with our client’s family doctors to deliver continuity of care.
Alberta is an entrepreneurial province – did that have an impact on the business climate Wello works in?
We all support each other in Alberta. It has a “small town feel” in a big province. It’s also home to other innovators, such as Alberta Innovates, the University of Calgary’s Creative Destruction Lab and Rainforest Alberta. But in terms of virtual healthcare, it’s really blue oceans and unchartered waters. Few others are doing what we’re doing. We have safe and secure digital platforms, backed by 40 years of experience delivering medical care to businesses and their employees.
Why should Alberta employers offer virtual healthcare as a part of their benefits plan?
Today employees want better work-life balance, they value fitness and health and they can’t live without technology. They also want personalized benefits and more flexible ways to work. In Alberta, many people also work in rural or remote areas where they can’t easily access healthcare services. So, there’s a huge opportunity to bring them virtual healthcare. It means less time out of the office to visit a clinic when that visit could be handled virtually – and that translates into less absenteeism, helping a business’s bottom line.
Are there plans to grow Wello beyond Alberta?
We currently provide virtual healthcare to Canadian employees and their families across five provinces and are soon to expand nationally.
What’s your philosophy around a healthy community?
Health is built on a three‐legged stool approach. My mantra is “healthy people, working in healthy organizations, living in healthy communities.” If one leg of the stool is broken, there’s no balance. This mantra is the foundation of my work both in corporate healthcare and as a volunteer. I’m passionate about workplace wellness and have pioneered many of Canada’s corporate health programs over my career. As the Business Development Director for Wello, I help to bring virtual healthcare to workplaces and homes across the country. For me, it doesn’t get much more rewarding than that.
Learn how virtual healthcare can help your employees, visit Wello at www.wello.ca.