- Workers deferred healthcare during the early months of the pandemic at an "alarming" rate — "not only in terms of the risks to patients but also to the companies who employ them," according to Dena Bravata, chief medical officer at Castlight Health. Bravata offered that assessment in a Nov. 5 statement announcing the results of a Castlight study.
- Patients significantly reduced use of preventive and elective care and increased use of telemedicine during March and April 2020 compared to the same time during the previous two years, but not enough to offset reductions in in-person care, the study determined
- "The significant reduction in utilization of preventive healthcare services will have downstream effects on the health of employees," said Maeve O'Meara, CEO of Castlight Health, in the announcement. "To mitigate the future impact on workforce health and productivity, employers can leverage digital and high-touch solutions to navigate employees to high-value care."
Virtual healthcare solutions have gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth visits could surpass 1 billion by the end of this year, with 900 million related to the pandemic, according to a Forrester report previously shared with HR Dive. April Willis Towers Watson findings found 86% of surveyed employers were promoting the use of nurse lines, telemedicine or virtual healthcare visits, and 58% were increasing access to telebehavioral health options.
However, some data suggested a drop-off in telemedicine usage after initial "stay at home" orders were rolled back or canceled. The historic utilization reported by telehealth vendors began to drop off in May and June as states greenlit elective procedures and treatments and patients began trickling back for deferred in-person care, HR Dive sister publication HealthcareDive reported. According to data from Epic, telemedicine visits accounted for 21% of total encounters by the middle of July, down from 69% in April.
Nevertheless, delayed healthcare can negatively impact employers, as Castlight noted. A Humana study from August 2019 found that a healthy workforce leads to higher productivity and healthcare savings. The health insurer said highly engaged workers had lower medical costs and fewer emergency room visits and hospital admissions. Some employers such as Cigna, Intel and Microsoft have been recognized for investing in employee health for all the advantages that a healthy workforce brings.
Data also suggests that personalization and total well-being support are important aspects of employee health and wellness programs. Eighty percent of employees say they would be more engaged if offered personalized wellness programs combined with a variety of non-cash incentives like paid time off, according to a Welltok report.