Telehealth as an Employee Benefit is Here to Stay
Telemedicine has an interesting history. One of the first telemedicine projects, that operated between 1973 and 1977, offered remote health care on the Papago reservation in southern Arizona. In the early eighties, NASA began developing a tele-I.C.U. for astronauts on Space Station Freedom. We’ve come a long way since then with a variety of “virtual care” models available for individuals to use from the comfort of their homes!
For most of us, our normal routines have been turned upside-down by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is especially true when it comes to healthcare. By now, many of us have likely been asked to login and virtually chat with our physician or our child’s physician…and that is bound to continue for some time for our non-critical care needs. Without necessarily meaning to, we have all become part of the telehealth trend -- or should we say solution?
Interestingly, a 2016 survey by the National Business Group on Health, which publishes an annual survey of employee health benefits offered by large firms, found that 76% of companies included telehealth as part of their benefit plan, but only 3% of their workers used it.1
And then came COVID-19
Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth providers are seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients virtually than they had before, according to a recent McKinsey & Co report.2
COVID-19 has changed many things for many employers. From shifting quickly to “work from home” models, to carefully planning detailed “return to work” plans, companies are dealing with the mental and physical health impacts the pandemic has had on their employees. From essential workers to managers and leadership, organizations and the health care system are rapidly adjusting to the medical needs of patients in a pandemic. This was evidenced in a recent Willis Towers Watson survey which found that employers are making enhancements to health care, wellbeing and paid leave benefit programs a priority. When asked about enhancements to health care, organizations say they are focusing on promoting virtual medical care by raising awareness and reducing point-of-care costs.3
The pandemic has brought heightened awareness to the benefits of telehealth, with a recent survey citing that 59% of consumer respondents reported they are more likely to use telehealth services now than previously, and 33% would even leave their current physician for a provider who offered telehealth access!4 One thing is for certain, the pandemic has forced employers to re-think telehealth as a necessary benefit.
Working Moms Need Virtual Support
As organizations look at programs that include telehealth services, they need to consider the specific needs of the working parents in their organization. Women that are returning to work after maternity leave, or women that will soon begin a maternity leave, have very specific pre- and post-natal health needs.
During pregnancy, it is important for women to have access to maternal care experts for trusted answers to unexpected questions that often come up. Our New Moms’ Healthy Returns program offers this support with 24/7 access to registered nurses who specialize in maternal and pediatric health. These nurses are available around-the-clock for a live consultation to advise expecting parents on everything from medication questions to what can or cannot be eaten while pregnant.
And if a working parent chooses to feed her baby breast milk, she will need to establish a solid breastfeeding routine when baby is born, and be prepared to pump at the office every day when she returns to work. This is a necessity for her, and it’s not always easy. That is why our virtual support services also include on-demand access, 24 hours a day, to lactation consultants via phone or video-chat. This support is very important to a breastfeeding employee, to ensure she is able to get issues resolved immediately – before the next feeding or pumping session – and it is a great way for employers to show they support their employees’ choice to continue their career and become a parent!
Beyond lactation support, having 24/7 access to pediatric experts for non-critical questions about baby’s health and nutrition is important for new parents, and benefits the whole family. In fact, a study of emergency room staff indicated that 80% of ER visits were dismissed as non-urgent and the leading cause of visits were persistent fevers, rashes and gastrointestinal problems.5 Not only mothers, but other members of the household who care for baby can access the virtual support services and get reliable answers when it comes to baby’s care and especially when there is still risk of COVID exposure with an in-person physician’s visit.
New Moms’ Healthy Returns: 24/7 Virtual Support Solution
As part of the New Moms’ Healthy Returns benefit program for the new parents in your organization, we offer a telehealth solution where families have unlimited access to certified lactation consultants and pediatric nurses, any time of day or night. From questions about medications, COVID screening, sleep habits, nutrition, colic, and more, parents will have more peace of mind knowing that they can get trusted advice from an expert—whenever they need it. If mom (or dad!) has to run to the pharmacy and has a question about a medication at 2 a.m., they can call! If baby has been vomiting and the babysitter doesn’t know what to do, they can call, too! Giving your working parents the ability to access experts when they need is invaluable—and it can often mean less time off from work for non-critical ailments that can be resolved with a virtual visit. Contact us today to learn how to implement 24/7 Virtual Support for the new and expecting parents in your organization today.
1. Sage Growth Partner (SGP) and Black Book Market Research
2. McKinsey & Co, Telehealth: A quarter-trilliondollar post-COVID-19 reality?, 2020
3. Willis Towers Watson, April 2020, 2020 COVID-19 Benefits Survey
4. 5 Reasons Why Telehealth Is Here To Stay (COVID-19 And Beyond), May, 2020
5. Sullivan, AF, Rudders SA, Gonsalve, AL, Steptoe AP, Espinola JA, Compargo CA, National Survey of pediatric services available in US emergency departments, International Journal of Emergency Medicine 2013.