Telehealth: the untapped resource that should be on everyone’s benefits list

Telehealth: the untapped resource that should be on everyone’s benefits list

Chris Bruce, MD and Co-Founder, Thomsons Online Benefits It’s no surprise to anyone that hospitals and GP surgeries have been under huge pressure i

Chris Bruce, MD and Co-Founder, Thomsons Online Benefits

It’s no surprise to anyone that hospitals and GP surgeries have been under huge pressure in recent months. As a result, seeking medical advice for a new or ongoing condition can feel challenging. In fact, a survey from NHS England found that four in 10 people were putting off seeing their GPs for fear of being a burden on the health service at this time.
With strong social distancing measures and many day-to-day restrictions set to persist for some time, employees will be looking to their employer for support. According to a study from Mercer, 61% of employees said that they trust their employer to look after their health – and hold them accountable for making decisions in their interest.

Supporting the mental and physical health of the workforce should therefore be front of mind for business leaders and HR teams. Tech-driven solutions, such as telehealth, can be critical in delivering this to remote employees and helping people to feel supported and engaged.
What is telehealth and how can it help?
Telehealth is usually defined as healthcare delivered via telephone, virtual technology or a combination of the two.
In practice, systems consist of a smart hub allowing people to enter data on their vital signs. This is transmitted to a clinical or non-clinical service where their ongoing health is monitored. Any medically significant alerts can then be addressed. These services are particularly helpful in supporting people with chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, to self-manage their conditions and avoid going to see the GP.
Digital tools are also incredibly useful for individuals who might be experiencing mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, providing them with access to practising GPs through virtual consultations. These can be invaluable in helping to prevent further spread in surgeries.
Incorporating telehealth into a benefits offering
Employers who invest in telehealth are effectively helping their people get the advice and reassurance they need quickly, without having to leave their homes. Moreover, giving employees this option will improve their overall employee experience, as they’ll feel a greater level of support from their employer. And a workforce that feels supported and healthy is likely to be more motivated and productive – which has obvious business benefits.

Some employers have successfully used telehealth for several years, seeing cuts in healthcare and insurance costs as a result. For those that haven’t, the benefits of offering the service are clear and have never been more pertinent.

While telehealth services make an ideal addition to employers’ benefits offerings, there are alternative digital portals out there that provide healthcare support for those unable to invest during this time. These include the NHS’ online tool, or free virtual consultation services such as Doctorinthehouse.net, which has been launched recently in the UK to try to ease pressure on the NHS.

Digital healthcare for a healthier – and safer – workforce

It’s hugely important that people are able to access advice remotely for a range of conditions, both now and in the future, whether it’s for their physical or mental health. Employers must use the tools at their disposal to facilitate this.

It’s likely that aspects of the way we live and work will change for good after this pandemic. While the trend for telehealth has been increasing in recent years, there’s no doubt that the coronavirus is accelerating adoption rates. We’re likely to see this uplift sustained beyond the crisis, as people become used to the tool. While people will be grateful to go back to working in offices and taking physical trips to their GP, physicians predict that telehealth could well be the ‘new normal’ going forward.

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