Big business takes a liking to telemedicine

Fueled by innovative telemedicine platforms, U.S. businesses are finding it easier to bring healthcare right to their employees.

More than one third of large U.S. employers recently surveyed by Towers Watson are offering telemedicine services to their employees, and another 12 percent say they’ll be adding the service within two years – all part of a national trend toward the use of onsite health centers.

 

“Telemedicine and onsite health centers are perfect complements,” said Allan Khoury, a senior consultant to the global professional services company, in a press release announcing the survey results. “They help employers make it easy for employees and other eligible members to see a doctor and get informed medical expertise — even on evenings and weekends. They also support an overall employer strategy of keeping workers productive and eliminating wasteful costs such as unnecessary emergency room visits.”

Towers Watson surveyed 120 large employers for its 2015 Employer-Sponsored Health Care Centers Survey, and found that close to 40 percent with onsite health facilities are planning to beef up those services over the next two years.

According to the survey, employers are using on-site or near-site health facilities (which can include telemedicine, retail clinics and kiosks) to increase productivity (75 percent), reduce healthcare costs (74 percent) and improve convenient employee access to healthcare services (66 percent). While offering a wide range of primary care services, these resources are also being used by employers for immunizations (99 percent), care for acute conditions such as upper respiratory and urinary tract infections (99 percent) and blood work (95 percent).

[See also: Workplace health and wellness goes digital]

“For employers with a critical mass of employees in one or more locations, onsite and near-site health centers can be an integral component of a high-performance healthcare program,” Bruce Hochstadt, a senior consultant at Towers Watson, said in the press release. “Encouraged by their experience to date, many employers with these centers believe providing convenient access to health services increases employee productivity by reducing time away from work. What’s more, many are ready to increase their investment.”

Employers are also starting to see the benefits of encouraging employee health and wellness. According to the survey, 86 percent already offer wellness programs, and 63 percent offer lifestyle coaching to promote and reinforce behavior changes. In fact, two-thirds of the employers surveyed plan to expand their services even more within the next three years.

According to the survey, the most popular form of on-site clinic is outsourced, with 64 percent passing on the management, staffing and services to a vendor; another 23 percent of employers run the clinics themselves, while 18 percent rely on regional provider groups or health systems.

Employers are also becoming more conscious of the ROI in on-site health. According to the survey, where only 47 percent calculated the ROI in 2012, 75 percent now measure that value. That value could be measured, for example, by comparing employee use and staffing levels against inpatient and emergency department use, or looking at time taken by employees for sick care or to care for a sick family member.

See also: 

Workplace clinics are expanding focus beyond injuries, preventive care

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