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Ways to Help Employers Maximize the Value of Virtual Care

 

Covid-19 continues to change the way Coloradans live and work, while altering how people navigate the health system. Given more than half of Americans have health care benefits through their place of work, employers are uniquely positioned to help employees maintain or improve their wellbeing.

Enter virtual care, an increasingly popular option for medical advice amid the coronavirus pandemic. Local physicians and national telehealth providers are seeing a surge in appointments as more people use digital devices to access care and medical advice virtually, including with behavioral health specialists and physical, occupational and speech therapists.

In fact, more than half of companies report that virtual care ranks as a top health priority. Here are strategies employers may consider to help maximize the value of this technology:

Start or expand access
Most large employers offer some type of virtual care benefit to their employees, so improving employee awareness and use of this technology should be a priority. Corporate executives and human resources leaders should continue to evaluate what virtual care options are available to employees through their health plan, local care professionals or other telehealth service providers.

Consistently communicate
Employers may consider creating consistent – and customized – communications to help promote the adoption of virtual care. To help encourage people to start and continue using this technology, some employers send out welcome kits, monthly email reminders and direct-mail materials that highlight the potential convenience, flexibility (24/7 or scheduled appointments) and affordability of virtual care.

Offer incentives
In general, people may be motivated by a combination of intrinsic factors, such as wanting to help maintain or improve personal health and avoid disease, and extrinsic ones, such as financial rewards. Employers may consider offering employees financial incentives for using virtual care resources*. For instance, across a group of small, mid-sized and large employers, employees had the opportunity to receive a $5 pre-paid gift card for completing a virtual visit registration, helping generate a 40% increase in sign-ups compared to a control group.[1]

Add virtual wellness programs
In addition to virtual care, employers may consider adding or expanding digital wellness programs, including ones that are designed to help employees prevent or better manage certain chronic conditions such as diabetes or obesity. For instance, employers may be able to provide virtual programs that give employees personalized, online weight loss and exercise support, which may help motivate them to get active. Plus, employers may consider telephonic programs that connect people with licensed counselors to help address various issues, including family and marriage difficulties, alcohol or substance misuse, and depression or stress.

Driving more consistent use of virtual care resources may encourage healthier and more productive employees, including helping address the recent decline in preventive services and support people with the management of certain chronic conditions – all with relatively minimal missed time from work.

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[1] UnitedHealthcare internal analysis of more than 90,000 small employers spanning small businesses, key accounts, national accounts and public sector employers, 2020
[2] Jefferies, Tele Me More: Telehealth Impact Across Services, Devices, Dental & Optical, 2020
[3] Sykes, 2020, https://www.sykes.com/reports/2020-telehealth-survey
[4] UnitedHealth Group market research report, 2020.
*Financial incentives may be less or unavailable due to limits under applicable laws.