The COVID-19 pandemic has forced healthcare organizations to enhance care delivery. The very nature of employee benefits is changing dramatically, and group plans are becoming more complex. There is a growing need for healthcare institutions to demonstrate better organizational health, greater productivity, and favorable financial outcomes.
When making decisions about their benefits programs, employers think about the ways in which they can increase employee productivity, improve employee satisfaction, and improve employee health and well-being. But, it is also worthwhile to examine how COVID-19 is shaping trends in benefits planning for the year ahead.
How has 2020 changed employee expectations? What does 2021 have in store for employee benefits?
Telemedicine and Virtual Care
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way care is delivered, particularly with the accelerated adoption of telemedicine and virtual care. McKinsey estimates that up to $250 billion of current U.S. healthcare spending could potentially be virtualized.
Healthcare providers have moved care beyond the in-person clinical setting and employers are faced with the challenge of meeting the evolving needs of employees. To address the rising demand for virtualized care, many employees are given access to telemedicine services through their employer’s healthcare coverage.
Telemedicine visits allow employees to access primary care physicians within minutes to help diagnose their symptoms and provide treatment recommendations. The market is crowded with digital point solutions that address specific issues. But no solutions currently offer a comprehensive, evidence-based platform across a broad range of conditions. Creating these solutions is particularly important for employees living with comorbidities, who are much more likely to drive higher cost.
As employees become more aware of and educated about virtual care services, we will continue to see a rise in utilization. Integrating remote patient monitoring, virtual health coaching, and omnichannel communication on one platform will be some of the ways in which employers can maintain a competitive benefits offering in 2021.
Mental Health Claims
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorder increased considerably in the U.S. during April-June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.
Many employers are now recognizing the increased need to support their employees during this time and are considering health plans that offer more mental health benefits. Through virtual care and the use of more longitudinal health records, employers can enable whole-person care that addresses the physical and psychological needs of employees.
Chronic Care Management
According to a CDC report, chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. and is also the leading driver of the nation’s $3.5 trillion in annual healthcare costs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people living with chronic conditions have largely been left to self-manage.
Employers need to address this gap in care and support employees and their families living with chronic conditions — or facing emerging risk— in managing their health and well-being. This can be done by connecting them with health coaches, using a digital coaching platform to enable timely and real-time interventions.
According to the 2021 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey, 80% of employers believe that virtual care will have a significant impact on how care is delivered in the future. By connecting employees with a healthcare provider on the phone or online, employers can offer a curated network of virtual care programs that address the most prevalent and costly conditions.
Personalized interventions through better communication
Employers need to offer benefits that meet the needs of their unique employee population and also address those who need additional support. Virtual care and telemedicine allow employers to offer broader options across traditional healthcare, including financial and lifestyle categories.
Accessing real-time data can help employers track the right people at the right time to provide timely interventions. This enables employers to deliver tailored recommendations to each demographic in the workforce.
After all the changes employees have been forced to go through in the past year, keeping them engaged, productive, and motivated is essential to company health. The keys to doing this are to keep channels of communication open and to use these channels frequently. Engaging with employees and collecting feedback from them will also foster a sense of security and trust among the workforce.
Employers can prepare for a post-pandemic environment by revamping their benefits plans to support and motivate employees. With a combination of employee insights, data analytics, and virtual care, employers can develop benefits that are tailored to the needs of any segment of the workforce.
To learn how you can manage the growing burden of chronic conditions through a virtual care solution, get a demo.
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