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Almost Four-in-Five Employers Added or Expanded Virtual Care Services

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   December 17, 2020

A majority of employers have kept their onsite or near-site health centers open to in-person care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Almost 80% of employers have added or expanded virtual care services during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Willis Towers Watson (WTW) survey released Thursday morning.

The report also found a majority of employers have kept their onsite or near-site health centers open to in-person care throughout the coronavirus outbreak. Half of the respondents that planned on expanding a center or adding a new one delayed or canceled plans due to the pandemic, while 10% accelerated expansion plans.

Among employers that closed health centers, more than a quarter have reopened at least one facility, nearly 20% have closed them temporarily, and 2% have closed them permanently.

"With employees’ health care needs shifting amid the pandemic, health centers are looking for ways to reinvent themselves," Kara Speer, national practice leader of employer-sponsored health centers at WTW, said in a statement. "Most centers no longer view themselves as a facility to provide merely in-person primary and acute care and now offer additional services, including enhanced virtual care, to complement in-person visits."

Related: Telehealth Reimbursements Improve, But Access Barriers Still Remain

In the absence of in-person care options, many employers have increased the availability of virtual care options, and nearly 60% plan to keep those services permanently, according to the survey.

Chronic care management was the virtual care service offered by the most survey respondents (46%), and more than 40% stated that they expect to add or expand their role in chronic care management in the future. 

Nearly one-third of employers with health centers are expanding or planning to expand their remote patient monitoring capabilities as well.

Related: Will the Health Industry Emerge Stronger in 2021?

The WTW survey was released days after two other reports analyzed the current state of telehealth after the service achieved mainstream success during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anthem Inc.'s Public Policy Institute issued findings on Tuesday indicating that 136 times more of the insurer's affiliated Medicare Advantage plan members used virtual care options from March to May 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

Additionally, CFRA, a New York-based independent investment research firm, predicted that the U.S. telehealth market will reach $25 billion by 2025, representing an annual growth rate of 29%.

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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