Number of the Day: Virtual healthcare

Use of telemedicine has soared because of the pandemic, new research finds.
By: | November 13, 2020 • 2 min read


47%: Percentage of employees who say they’ve used virtual health services this year

Roughly half of employees have used virtual health services this year, according to a survey of 4,898 employees from consulting firm Willis Towers Watson. That’s up significantly from years past—just 17% of employees said the same last year.

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What it means to HR leaders

Telehealth has long been predicted as a hot benefit trend, but largely employees have been hesitant to buy into the model—until now. The COVID-19 pandemic is significantly driving interest and use in virtual care, signaling that HR leaders and organizations are wise to continue to promote the benefit, especially during the crisis.

Many organizations and HR leaders have added or expanded telemedicine benefits since the pandemic began earlier this year. Others ramped up communication around virtual care, encouraging employees to use available telehealth options.

The new focus appears to be working, according to the survey. In addition to the significant increase in the use of the benefit, employees also give their experiences with virtual care a positive review: 79% say such visits are equally as good as in-person visits, and 25% say they’re better. Most (78%) say they would likely use virtual care services in the future, according to Willis Towers Watson.

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“Virtual care turned out to be just what the doctor ordered during the pandemic,” says Julie Stone, managing director of health and benefits at Willis Towers Watson. “Employers were quick to expand and educate employees on how to access virtual care, and employees—especially those who were hesitant to access traditional medical care—took advantage of it. While most employees used virtual care for regular screenings and checkups, a significant number were able to utilize it for diagnosis and treatment of a new illness, chronic conditions and importantly, mental health services.”

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.