2017 Healthcare Trends: Employee Access
Ellen Isaacs, RN, BSN, CPHM, CHC – Director of Corporate Health and Wellness, HEALTHWORKS Division, Carolinas HealthCare System.
One of the keys to lowering employer healthcare costs is addressing chronic healthcare conditions. And the best way to help employees get and stay healthy is by making sure they have access to a variety of care options.
We live in an on-demand world. Our schedules have never been busier and making time to visit a doctor can feel like a chore, particularly for non-urgent health issues. Under the traditional healthcare model, the cost of this behavior to employers and employees can be substantial:
- First and foremost, chronic conditions are our single, largest controllable healthcare cost. When an employee lets the root cause of a chronic condition go unaddressed, they and their employer bear the burden of ongoing symptom treatment, not to mention potential absenteeism and reduced productivity.
- If an employee pursues a traditional office visit, that comes with an additional out-of-pocket cost as well as hours lost traveling to and from the provider’s office, waiting for an appointment to begin, and then repeating the process for a follow-up.
HEALTHWORKS makes it much easier for employees to access care that will lead to a healthier lifestyle overall and lower costs for everyone involved. There are many options for employees to access healthcare beyond the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. appointment model, and they include:
Virtual Health Coaching
A virtual health coach works in much the same way as a traditional practitioner, meeting with a patient over multiple visits to identify and treat a chronic condition. The only difference is that the appointments take place online through video conferencing. Not only does this eliminate lost productivity due to travel and waiting times, it also dramatically increases engagement. Patients are exponentially more likely to remain engaged with a virtual health coach than those who pursue support purely by telephone (65 percent to 85 percent engagement rate for virtual health coaches, 2 percent for telephonic health coaches)
More and more companies are looking to bring non-work activities directly to the office. Some trendy options we are seeing from big-name companies include on-site fitness classes, dry cleaning and even dog-walking services. But arguably one of the most cost-effective benefit options for certain employers is an on-site healthcare clinic. Imagine if employees were able to treat a doctor’s appointment like any other meeting in their schedule? Rather than fighting traffic, parking and waiting room lines, they simply travel a few floors down the elevator for a checkup. More and more employers are examining the potential ROI of implementing an on-site healthcare clinic for their staff. One large manufacturer in our region saved $1.8 million in one year by engaging employees in health screenings and then offering ongoing support and treatment through an on-site clinic. These medical offices make it much easier for your employees to address health issues in a convenient fashion.
Virtual Urgent Care
Similar to virtual health coaching services, telehealth programs make it possible for patients to connect with a doctor or nurse from the comfort of their home or office – anytime, day or night. While telehealth services have been a standard for HEALTHWORKS customers for many years, these offerings are rapidly advancing thanks to improvements in technology. It’s now possible to connect with a doctor with just a few taps on your smartphone screen. If a sore throat or small rash crop up, employees no longer have to wait for their local urgent care clinic to open or burn time waiting for an appointment. They can speak with a medical professional right away, identify treatment options and get on the road to feeling better.
These time and cost-saving options only deliver ROI if they are implemented in a thoughtful way. Employers cannot simply start offering a bunch of new health programs without understanding exactly how that tool will benefit their employees. For example, depending on the specific makeup of your staff, virtual urgent care services may offer a high benefit for your team, but your employees may be less likely to engage with an on-site fitness program. This is why the HEALTHWORKS team invests substantial time in understanding the nuances of any client — from the size and makeup of the team to prevalence of various chronic conditions — before we make any recommendations.
To find out more information about employee access can affect your healthcare spend, click here to download the HEALTHWORKS Health Coaching Infographic.