Digital health hedges against growing expenses for employers and employees

Benefits that include access to digital health save employers money and empower employees to take charge of their health.

Healthcare costs have rapidly increased over the past several years. There are myriad reasons that have led to this increase, including inflation, supply shortage, and mounting nursing costs. Another factor driving costs up is that Americans are becoming increasingly chronically ill. It may only account for 1% of a company’s employee population, but it can account for up to 40% of its costs. Plus, there are continuing costs associated with COVID-19 and the “tri-demic” that experts warn about this winter.

To alleviate the impact of these cost increases, employers are adapting and incorporating new healthcare plan offerings for their employees. Benefits that include access to digital health save employers money and empower employees to take charge of their health by providing them with convenient, cost-effective care delivered how and when they want it. Plus, it is five to 15 times more efficient. This results in lower costs, better outcomes, and more satisfied employees.

For the employers

There’s no doubt that health insurance is one of an employer’s most important and most costly benefits. Not only has it become even more critical in attracting and retaining employees, but it’s also important in maintaining a healthy, more productive workforce. When employees are in a position where they find it easier to just power through an illness rather than seek care, it can lead to more significant issues and, at times, extend their illnesses, leading to more healthcare costs and poor patient outcomes. Instead, when employees have a convenient, cost-effective way to access healthcare, they are more likely to be proactive and take care of any health concerns early before they become more complex and costly conditions. With digital health benefits in place, employers can offer employees access to medical providers virtually, avoiding the need for a more expensive, less convenient care setting like the emergency room, an urgent care, or even an office visit. The workforce can stay healthy and at work.

People are used to access and flexibility when they want and need it for everything, including healthcare. With virtual care, an employer is able to provide employees with healthcare on their terms. Patients can get care where and when they want it, and specifically designed around their needs. Convenience is key and virtual care with a digital front door and simple, immediate access to healthcare providers, removes barriers. Employees can simply step away for a few minutes for a virtual visit instead of having to step away from work for hours.

For the employees

Having the benefit of virtual care is invaluable to patients. Not everyone has the same needs when it comes to their health care. With digital health solutions in place, patients can access a range of services to meet their needs, including care when it’s an emergency or urgent issue, primary care, mental healthcare, and more. When the care comes to the patient, ER and hospital admissions are avoided, saving the patient time and money, all while ensuring that their health concerns are addressed.

We saw many patients taking advantage of engaging with healthcare providers digitally during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and during that time, 67% of patients encountered lower costs with telehealth visits, as opposed to in-person visits. Furthermore, nearly 80% reported that their virtual visit addressed their concerns. This is the type of care patients deserve and have come to expect.

Consider the things our health care system should do but either aren’t or can’t. How much better off could a patient be if their provider checked back in with them a few days after an appointment to be sure their treatment and recovery were going according to plan? What if that provider could send someone to their home, if needed, for lab work or for transition or care after a hospital admission? All of this and more can be accomplished with virtual care and the right digital health partners and solutions in place. Digital engagement and follow-ups encourage patients to pay closer attention to their health, proactively and after an illness and feel truly engaged with their provider.

Through a digital front door, patients have the benefit of access to so many things virtually, as opposed to in person. They can be prescribed medications, connected to community programs and resources, and provide referrals and orders for lab testing or other diagnostic tests. Even when it comes to emergencies, patients can have immediate access to trained emergency medicine providers in the comfort of their own homes, keeping the patient cost lower and the experience seamless, eliminating possible hours of wait time someone might experience in person in an overcrowded ER.

Virtual care allows patients to avoid extended waiting times at an office, too, and, in some instances, they will not be charged for services, as increased benefits provide instant access, often at a minimal cost or no cost at all. Patients can seamlessly schedule and access a doctor's visit by using an assortment of electronic devices –phone, tablet, or computer. But quite possibly, the best part about it is that, within minutes of inquiring about an appointment, patients can consult with a physician, get a diagnosis, and get to the bottom of what treatment plan they will need.

Experiencing better outcomes

With virtual care, employees will always be provided a high-quality and seamless level of care, no matter where they are. And it will pay off for all parties when it comes to employers and their employees through lower cost, better health, and increased satisfaction. A workforce now demands more for themselves – whether it be parental leave, work-life balance, or innovative healthcare benefits across the job market. When employees feel empowered by the ability to manage their health concerns with digital health, they are more proactive in their outreach, less likely to avoid a doctor’s visit, and more likely to stay healthy in the long run. Providing them with the means to engage in virtual will help ensure a healthy workforce and benefit a company’s bottom line.

Keith Algozzine is the co-founder and CEO of UCM Digital Health. A board-certified Physician Assistant, he was formerly the Chief PA of Emergency Medicine for St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, NY, where he witnessed firsthand the challenges of the modern healthcare system. Keith was also part of the national ER startup management team for Pegasus Emergency Medicine. He represents UCM Digital Health on the American Telemedicine Association Accreditation Advisory Board and serves as an advisor to the Clinical Practice Guidelines Committees dealing with telemedicine considerations for urgent and emergency care.