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How New Tech Can Lead to Healthier and More Productive Employees

Advances in health care technology make it easier for your employees to look after their well-being. And healthier employees are more productive and use fewer sick days.

There are plenty of new ways to track health and fitness:

  • Mobile apps
  • Social media
  • Websites
  • Wearables

These advances can help your employees improve habits and virtually manage care outside of work. This can enable them to be more focused and accomplish more on the job. Here’s a closer look at some tech trends in health care.

Telemedicine makes getting health care simple

Virtual health care, also known as “telemedicine,” is already all around us. It might sound complicated, but telemedicine is simply the delivery of medical care by certified health professionals via secure internet connections or apps.

Most of us already use telemedicine, and we don’t even realize it.

Have you ever confirmed a doctor’s appointment online? If so, you’ve experienced telemedicine. Here are a few ways employees can simplify their lives through telemedicine:

  • Attend online support groups
  • Share electronic health records
  • See doctors through virtual visits
  • Remotely monitor and report vitals or symptoms


Telemedicine brings the doctor to you

Telemedicine can help you get health care without having to visit a hospital or doctor’s office. It is flexible, quick, and convenient. It is also ideal for anyone with a minor health ailment and a busy schedule. Your full-time employees can schedule a virtual doctor visit after work or even during a lunch break.

A virtual visit lets you see doctors through real-time audio-visual connections. Some insurers cover these services through vendors such as Amwell™ (American Well®) or Doctor On Demand™.

Most telemedicine services require that patients register in advance. They also require medical history, personal information, and insurance coverage. When your employees need medical help, they can log in from anywhere, and meet with a doctor over an audio-visual link.

The doctor can typically diagnose the issue, suggest treatment, and prescribe medication (if needed). Telemedicine can often be used to treat illnesses like upper respiratory infections, flu, cough and sore throat—some of the top reasons why people visit urgent care centers.

When scheduling a virtual visit, your employees should look for:

  • U.S. board-certified, state-licensed doctors
  • 24/7 availability, so you can schedule a visit when doctors’ offices are usually closed
  • Doctors who accept the employee’s insurance
  • Doctors who can write prescriptions that can be filled in the employee’s community


Video conferencing connects primary care doctors and specialists

In rural or remote locations, virtual visits are essential for people who aren’t able to drive long distances for care. Video conferencing can also help primary care doctors in rural areas who need assistance from a neurologist, cardiologist, or another specialist. This brings specialized care within everyone’s reach.

In a recent STAT article, Clint MacKinney tells the story of a primary care physician (PCP) in a remote location who is asked to care for a car accident victim. Through a video conference, that doctor is able to get assistance from experts in emergency medicine to help save a patient with a collapsed lung.


Online portals make tracking health easy

Many hospitals, health systems, and insurance companies have a web-based member or patient portal. Portals make it convenient for your employees to store, refer to, and share their electronic medical records and track health spending.

Providers are able to share wellness tips, personal messages, and reminders for preventive care to keep employees healthy. Through portals, employees can use a home computer, tablet, or smartphone to:

  • Send messages or questions to their doctor
  • Make appointments
  • See test results
  • Request prescription renewals or refills
  • Pay for medical bills
  • Track spending account use


Remote patient monitoring brings peace of mind

Remote monitoring can happen while employees are at work, allowing them to focus on their jobs instead of worrying about health issues.

Pregnant women and people with pacemakers, heart monitors, or diabetes pumps can benefit from remote monitoring devices. They can use the devices to automatically download data to a doctor’s office. This lets them share their health status on a regular basis and learn about any problems.

A study by Mayo Clinic researchers supports the benefits of using monitoring devices. Low-risk pregnant patients who received care through remote monitoring reported greater satisfaction than those who received usual care (95% versus 77%). Patients reported:

  • Less pregnancy-related stress
  • Fewer in-person meetings
  • The same quality of care


Wearable devices provide health care options

Wearable devices are small computers that can be worn comfortably on your body or clothing. They perform various functions. The devices gather health data, act as a mobile phone, tell time, and more.

It’s not only consumers who have realized the value of fitness trackers and the data they collect. Doctors, insurers, and employers have begun to use the devices to promote wellness among patients, members, and employees. Some companies offer incentives to their employees who wear trackers and reach fitness goals.

Wearables can talk to other devices like laptops or your smartphone. And the stored data can be accessed in real time. Fitness-tracking bracelets and watches also fall in this category.

These devices can also be used for real-time support of targeted populations, like those with diabetes or obesity. For example, wearables are being used to track tremors in Parkinson’s patients.

A recent PwC survey found that nearly half of respondents said they own at least one wearable device; 45% own a fitness band and 27% own a smart watch. Health tops the list of what these consumers want from their devices. They are using wearables to help them:

  • Exercise smarter – 77%
  • Collect and track medical information – 75%
  • Eat better – 67%

Even those who aren’t wearing fitness trackers may use their mobile apps to report or record diet and exercise. Phone apps can also study sleep habits, count steps, or measure blood sugar levels. The more people are aware of their health, the more likely they are to make healthy choices. As a result, they miss less work and are more productive.


Telemedicine saves employers time and money

Improvements in telemedicine technology also save time for workers and eliminate unnecessary in-person appointments. For example, a recent study looking at clients who added a telemedicine provider to their benefit packages found:

  • Out of 12,000 primary members, there were 1,709 total telemedicine consultations.
  • Of these consultations, 52% replaced office visits and 8% replaced ER visits.
  • The average lost time saved per office visit was 3.3 hours.
  • The average lost time saved per ER visit was 8 hours.

By giving employees easy access to health care, employees are more likely to seek medical care more quickly and proactively. This reduces the need for high-cost emergency room or doctor office visits for conditions that aren’t treated in the early stages. This can also reduce costs in employer health care expenses.


Is telemedicine a part of your benefits?

If you think that your employees would appreciate the convenience of telemedicine services, contact your plan provider and ask about their offerings. And consider some of the points on the employer checklist when you are evaluating your plan benefits with your provider. Your insurer can also refer you to their specific telemedicine vendors for more information.


Employer Checklist

Look at the experience and capabilities of your plan’s telemedicine provider.
Ask about:

  • Average response rate
  • Average cost savings per consultation
  • Online resources for plan members

Consider the group’s quality assurance program.
Ask about:

  • Does it meet National Committee for Quality Assurance standards?
  • Member satisfaction rate
  • How are physicians credentialed, and how often are they checked?

What type of physician qualifications does the group require?
Ask about:

  • Criteria for network inclusion
  • Type of board certifications
  • English and Spanish fluency