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Large Employers Leverage Digital Health Tools to Offer Telehealth Benefits, According to Survey

Employers, take note: Telehealth is one of the newest shifts in digital health trends, and it might soon impact your ability to attract top talent.

When most people think of employer-sponsored health benefits, plan design is likely a key feature. This perspective is changing, however. Recent telemedicine advancements are morphing the nature of the employee benefit package into one that acts as more of a partner to employees — engaging them in their health initiatives and optimizing how they access healthcare overall. According to a recent survey, this is especially true for large employers.

Adapting Employers to Advancements in Telehealth

Employers are just as concerned about healthcare costs as anyone else in the industry, and according to a survey from the National Business Group on Health, that concern is a primary driver behind a rise in new digital health initiatives among large employers.

The survey involved 133 large employers, under which over 15 million Americans were covered. It found that overall, these employers were making telehealth increasingly available. According to Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, “Employers’ focus in 2017 is shifting away from plan design to optimizing how healthcare is accessed and delivered. That translates into expanded telehealth services, more Centers of Excellence options and optional selective network choices that focus on providing higher quality healthcare.”

The survey, conducted in May and June of this year, predicted that by 2019, 97 percent of large employers will offer telehealth services — a trend that’s been brewing for a few years now. In 2014, according to a Towers Watson study, a meager 22 percent of larger employers offered telemedicine consultations as an alternative to emergency room and primary care visits. However, at the same time, another 37 percent planned to offer those same services by 2015 — a 68 percent increase. An additional 34 percent of employers were considering offering these services beginning in 2016 or 2017.

Continuing Challenges

The Towers Watson study in particular highlights one of the greatest challenges employers face in realizing the full benefit of telemedicine solutions — awareness. Many employees aren’t even aware of traditional options, so it’s highly likely that their options of digital health tools are being overlooked. A senior consultant involved in the report, Jeff Levin-Scherz, stressed the importance of employer communication: “Telemedicine requires that patients have access to a telemedicine service, that they actually know about that access, and that they use the service. Employer-sponsored access to telemedicine services is increasing substantially, and we are working with our clients to be sure that they communicate the value of this offering to their beneficiaries.”

Telehealth solutions are also being used to tackle one of the biggest threats to employee productivity and company profits — behavioral health problems. Learn about how digital tools are tackling behavioral health problems in new ways.

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Megan Williams

Megan Williams is a consultant and writer who specializes in healthcare technology. She has over a decade’s experience in hospital revenue cycle consulting and holds an MBA with a focus on international business, as well as a degree in hospital administration. She works with growing and established healthcare B2B companies in creating work that is in touch with the latest developments in healthcare, and maintains her work at LocutusHealth.com

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