Number of the Day: virtual healthcare

The pandemic rapidly accelerated the adoption of virtual healthcare; what that means for HR.
By: | August 21, 2020 • 2 min read

80: Percentage of employers surveyed that believe telehealth will significantly shape how healthcare is delivered in the future.

The coronavirus pandemic is rapidly reshaping how employees think of employee benefits. And, according to a new employer survey, it is also prompting many employers to recognize the role of new avenues of healthcare delivery.


In the Business Group on Health’s 2021 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey, 80% said virtual health will play a significant role in the future of healthcare, representing a continued uptick from previous years. Last year, 64% of respondents noted the significance of virtual healthcare delivery, up from 52% the prior year.

“While employers have been implementing more virtual solutions in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the pace to accelerate at an exponential rate,” the report’s authors wrote. “Telehealth offered through traditional telehealth providers, as well as brick-and-mortar practices forced to go virtual during pandemic lockdowns, has seen a surge in demand across a range of conditions.”

What it means to HR leaders

Virtual healthcare is “here to stay,” says Ellen Kelsay, president and CEO of Business Group on Health, noting the pandemic caused the already-trending rates of virtual healthcare adoption to “accelerate at an astronomical rate.”

“Virtual care is now garnering growing interest and receptivity from both employees and providers who increasingly see its benefit,” she adds.

Related: This is the biggest benefit trend of COVID-19

Employers aren’t just acknowledging the role virtual care will provide; according to the survey, they have taken action and plan to continue to do so.

When asked about their response to COVID-19, 76% of employers said they increased access to virtual care, while 71% also expanded the number of offerings for telehealth. More than 40% added options for telemental health.

More than half of respondents said they will introduce more options for virtual healthcare within the next year.


While nearly all respondents plan to offer virtual care for acute services, more than 90% will provide employees access to virtual mental healthcare. The survey also found significant interest in virtual options for musculoskeletal conditions, with nearly half of respondents planning to introduce new virtual options in this area by 2023.

The survey was conducted between May and June and polled 122 large employers that collectively offer healthcare coverage to more than 9 million employees and dependents.

See also: Why virtual wellness is on the rise

Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at

More from HRE