Telus Health is plunging into the business of elite medical clinics, spending just over $100 million to acquire Medisys-owned corporate and employee health clinics across Canada.

The acquisition involves about 30 boutique clinics, which operate under the Medisys, Copeman Healthcare and Horizon Occupational Health Solutions brands. Some of them charge hefty annual membership fees for affluent families and executives.

Josh Blair, the head of Telus Health, said buying Medisys, “a profitable entity,” lets Telus improve its presence and capabilities in areas like virtual care appointments, private and secure personal health records, mental health applications, mobile health delivery and emergency response tools for seniors.

The purchase ensures that Telus digital products — which it calls wellness solutions — are used by the 800 health professionals working in the clinics. Telus has spent a few billion dollars developing electronic health records software, systems for virtual health visits with doctors, apps for patients, and more.

The company says it has become the leading provider of digital technology used by patients, doctors and pharmacies across Canada. Blair said Telus Health expects to eventually to expand the reach of Medisys programs and services to more consumers.

“When you look south of the border, you see American tech giants moving into this space … so together with Telus and Medisys, our intention is to create a Canadian health tech champion that can be an alternate to the American tech giants,” Blair said.

Telus, he said, will work with health-care professionals and government bodies to ensure its products safely store personal health records on Canadian soil.

Asked why Telus would go into the bricks and mortar medical clinic business rather than just trying to sell digital products in the sector, he said: “Good question. At the end of the day, high-tech solutions need to be complemented by health professionals, so with the Medisys team, we have 800, particularly doctors and nurses, who can help patients on their health journey.”

Blair said the deal — which closed a few weeks ago but was announced on Friday — allows Telus to expand its relationship with the two million employees of the 4,500 companies that use Medisys.

Medisys was using some Telus products, Blair said, but nowhere near the full array.

Paul Lepage, president of Telus Health told employees this in a statement:

“At Medisys clinics across Canada, we’ll deliver employee-centred care, backed by Telus’ world-leading broadband networks and supported by digital tools such as patient portals, virtual care, wellness and mental health applications, electronic prescribing, electronic benefits claims and secure messaging. Every clinic will be outfitted with the full suite of Telus Health solutions.”

The Medisys acquisition includes Medisys subsidiary Copeman Healthcare, the Vancouver company founded in 2005 by Don Copeman, a Vancouver computer technology entrepreneur. He sold his clinics to Medisys in 2014; his non-compete agreement expires in 2019 and he plans to re-enter the healthcare field.

Copeman Healthcare has four swanky clinics in B.C. and Alberta, catering to well-heeled patients, corporate health programs and business executives. Annual membership fees range between $3,500 and $4,500. It offers publicly funded primary care but also offers expedited, private fee services that focus on prevention of health problems through appointments with kinesiologists, nutritionists, exercise medicine experts, personal trainers, physiotherapists and mental health professionals.

Copeman, who is no longer involved in the company, said in an interview the acquisition by Telus is as fascinating as it is curious.

“I think the only rational explanation is that the clinics will be like living labs for Telus Health to refine their digital tools, develop and test new ones. It allows them to keep their products moving.”

Dr. Brian Day, the co-owner of the private Cambie Surgery Centre that is leading a lawsuit challenging B.C. government attempts to limit private clinics, said the purchase makes sense because large U.S. and International corporations, such as Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase, are all getting into the business and targeting technology solutions as a way to improve the health-care system.

He said the fact that Medisys is a private company means Telus gains the flexibility to introduce “creative initiatives and solutions” that are sometimes difficult to do under the constraints that government imposes on public facilities.

“I expect to see positive and much-needed disruptive innovation.”

In the announcement to Telus Health employees today, president Paul Lepage said every clinic will be outfitted with the “full suite of Telus solutions.

“By our estimates at Telus Health, employer and employee spending on health-care services represents nearly a third of all healthcare spending in Canada. At Medisys clinics across Canada, we’ll deliver employee-centred care, backed by Telus’ world-leading broadband networks and supported by digital tools such as patient portals, virtual care, wellness and mental health applications, electronic prescribing, electronic benefits claims and secure messaging.”

pfayerman@postmedia.com

 

Telus jumps into business of health clinics, buys national chain

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