Three In Four Employees Using Telehealth Will Continue After The Pandemic

By Bruce Japsen, Contributor
Mercer's 2021 Health on Demand report said Mercer shows "one-fifth of employees used telemedicine for the first time during the pandemic, and another 23% increased their usage.” In this Getty photo, a woman talks with a doctor about a prescription medication during a telemedicine appointment on her digital tablet. getty

Though many Americans are still working remotely, they are finding ways to see their doctor virtually even as they return to the office.

A new report from employee benefits consultancy Mercer shows “one-fifth of employees used telemedicine for the first time during the pandemic, and another 23% increased their usage.” In all, three-fourths or 75% of employees have used telehealth, also known as telemedicine and most will continue to do so.

The 2021 Mercer “Health on Demand” report, which includes responses from 14,000 workers around the world and unveiled Monday comes at a time when the Delta variant of the Coronavirus surges across the country and delays the ability of many Americans to return to the office.

Some companies that had planned to return to the office this fall after 18 months away since Covid-19 began its spread in March of 2020 and triggered a move to remote work are still keeping employees at home. An earlier Mercer survey found most employers, or 59%, plan to return employees to their worksites by the end of September if they aren’t already back already but many workers remain apprehensive and concerned about returning to work safely.

“In the ongoing shift to more virtual ways of working and conducting business, it is natural for employees to expect those efficiencies to translate into healthcare delivery,” Mercer chief executive officer Martine Ferland said. “Benefit design focused on traditional ways of accessing healthcare is becoming outdated as more care is delivered virtually and employees place higher value in digital health solutions.” 

Most health insurers cover telehealth and many medical care providers and health plans increased their investments in virtual healthcare. Earlier this year, for example, Cigna’s Evernorth healthcare services business bought telehealth provider MDLive while UnitedHealth Group’s Optum healthcare services unit launched a virtual care business that is expanding telehealth across the U.S. with more specialized medical care providers and services.

The Mercer report indicates the investments into telehealth are good ones given 72% of employees intend to “keep using” telehealth, including those who tried it for the first time during the pandemic.

“There is no turning back the clock,” Ferland said. “It's clear that the adoption of virtual health improves accessibility, affordability and quality.”


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