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Contributor: Employers Are Turning to Virtual Care Options to Mitigate Costs

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Virtual care not only means saved time and costs for employees, but improvements to employers' bottom lines, through more proactive management of health concerns, notes UCM Digital Health CEO and co-founder Keith Algozzine.

Employers are no strangers to the fact that health care costs are rapidly on the rise. Unfortunately, these cost impacts are taking a toll on employees. Some contributing factors here are inflation, supply shortages, nursing shortages, and a rise in chronic illness diagnoses, according to a study published in ACR Open Rheumatology. Furthermore, half of the population is affected by these illnesses, and the care associated with them accounts for more than 85% of health care costs. Even if these expenses are only responsible for 1% of a company’s population, they can still be responsible for up to 40% of health insurance costs for a company.

There are plenty of benefits an employer can provide to employees, but with health care prices on the rise, health insurance is arguably the most important. To that end, when employees are offered the option of next-generation benefits like virtual care, it empowers them to take control of their health journey and to be more proactive. The benefits are aplenty for all parties because the workforce will be healthier, which means a more profitable bottom line for employers.

Convenience First

In this day and age, people are used to accessibility and flexibility for nearly everything. That’s certainly no different when it comes to their health care. Even amid a global pandemic, people got accustomed to having access to their providers on a virtual basis. More than 65% of patients who met virtually with providers during the pandemic encountered lower costs than when meeting in person. Now is not the time to move backward. Employees have come to expect this type of care and benefit, and it’s what they will look for in an employee health insurance program.

In addition to the convenience that comes with virtual visits, patients have access to an array of other important things: being prescribed medications, connecting to programs and resources in the community, and the expedition of referrals for additional treatments that include lab testing, imaging, or specialist appointments. Not only are patients saving time through virtual doctor visits, but virtual access can also eliminate extended wait times for emergency care because patients can even access emergency medicine within the walls of their homes. This will keep them out of already-burdened emergency departments that are filled to capacity.

Additionally, the demand for mental health treatment issues greatly rose between 2020 and 2021. Now, most psychologists are offering or plan to offer remote services. Whether someone is dealing with a short-term issue or needs extended care. Virtual, round-the-clock access to these types of services will be invaluable to many employees.

When patients have access to virtual care, they can do away with scouring the internet to understand their symptoms, and they are more likely to not postpone put off doctor visits. Virtual care comes with the same high standards of care as in-person visits and it comes with ease for the patient and the provider, streamlining the triage process. Patients can feel confident about their care. Not only will this help to reduce care variability, but it will encourage them to be actively involved in every aspect of their health.

A Proactive Approach

When convenience is offered to patients, and their health care is easier to access, they are more likely to be proactive in their health care journey. This is one of the greatest benefits of virtual care. For example, without virtual care, if someone becomes sick, they could likely put off an in-person doctor visit as it might cause them to miss work or other important matters. When someone pushes through their illness instead of visiting a doctor, it can cause them to face more serious health issues or even prolong their illness. This is a perfect recipe for poor patient outcomes that lead to higher costs for all parties.

On the other hand, when a patient can access their care options virtually, they can avoid long wait times at a provider’s office, and it often comes at a lower cost. Through the use of most electronic devices, a patient can easily schedule a doctor’s appointment and meet with their provider within a reasonable timeframe.

What’s Good for the Employee Is Good for the Employer

Virtual care can be extremely beneficial to employees, but it’s also incredibly advantageous to employers. Employees can access their doctors quickly and at any time, which means they can avoid taking extended amounts of time away from work. That means using less sick time and increased productivity and presenteeism for employers.

Virtual care means 24/7 access to high-quality and seamless care at a reduced cost, regardless of where the employee is at any moment. Enabling employees to actively manage their health concerns means they can be proactive in their outreach and take care of health concerns immediately. Virtual access to check-ins and around-the-clock care will mean lower costs and better outcomes for everyone, which will result in greater employee satisfaction. A company’s bottom line will always see the benefits when the workforce is happy and healthy.

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