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Virtual Care in Demand: Exploring the Benefits of Telehealth

August 10, 2022

By Ken McKeon

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the use and adoption of telehealth — finally bringing into the mainstream what has been a staple of employers’ benefits packages for years.

More than 90% of employers offering at least one form of telehealth (telemedicine, virtual primary care, virtual mental health, etc.), but prior to the pandemic, utilization hovered around 5% to 10%.

Since the pandemic, usage increased significantly. In the first quarter of 2020, the U.S. recorded a 154% increase in telehealth visits, according to the CDC.

Why Employers Should Expand Telehealth Benefits

In the current labor climate, employers are finding it difficult to attract and retain top talent to support their organizational goals. To stand out, employers must ensure their benefits package is competitive with the current market. That includes offering, enhancing and expanding telehealth offerings.

Whether offered through an insurance carrier or as a stand-alone platform, job candidates and employees are naming telehealth as a must-have benefit.

Employees seem to be getting the message. According to Mercer’s Survey on Health and Benefit Strategies for 2023, over two-thirds of responding employers plan on enhancing their health benefits offerings in 2023.

The benefits of telehealth may seem obvious — fast, easy access to healthcare when people need it — but there are additional, tangible benefits for both employees and employers.

Telehealth Benefits for Employers

Beyond attracting and retaining talent, here are two overlooked telehealth benefits for employers.

Absenteeism: With access to telehealth, employers will see lower rates of absenteeism among their workers. Rather than trekking to a doctor’s office and missing work for up to several hours, employees can see a provider almost instantly, saving time and limiting the work disruption.

Financial: There are financial incentives for employers who drive higher telehealth utilization. Steering an office or emergency room visit to a virtual care visit can result in significant savings, especially for self-funded employers.

Telehealth Benefits for Employees

As mentioned earlier, employees and job candidates are looking for employers to meet very specific needs. Telehealth meets many of those needs. Here are several benefits for employees.

Easy access: Telehealth allows employees and dependents to easily access care without getting in the car and going to a doctor’s office.

Cost savings: Telehealth provides high-quality care to employees and their families. for little to no out-of-pocket cost.

Care management: Telehealth is a better way for employees to manage their ongoing healthcare needs, particularly with prescription refills.

Education Remains Vital

Though telehealth utilization has exploded during the pandemic, it has leveled off recently. Even with employers expanding telehealth benefits and job candidates asking for them, many individuals still don’t think of telehealth during a time of need.

The challenge is getting someone to try it for the first time. Once someone has completed a virtual visit, they are far more likely to do it again. Its proof that continued education and engagement is still essential to change decades’ worth of behavior.

Continued advancements in technology and services with providers are only adding to the value for everyone. The pandemic will likely result in long-term issues that telehealth is poised to help solve. It is a rare win-win for employers and employees that is here to stay.