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Analysis

Survey: Workers Embrace Telehealth Amid Pandemic

By John Commins  
   October 28, 2020

Willis Towers Watson finds that while nearly half of employees are deferring medical care, few report suffering worse health outcomes so far.

Workers have embraced telehealth during the coronavirus pandemic and they are giving the virtual care experience high marks, a Willis Tower Watson survey finds.

Almost half of respondents in the survey (47%) have used virtual care services this year — almost three times more than last year (17%), the survey found.

The employees also gave virtual care high marks compared with face-to-face consultations, with 79% reporting virtual care as good, and 25% rating it better. Nearly 80% employees said they would consider using virtual care in the future.

"Virtual care turned out to be just what the doctor ordered during the pandemic," says Julie Stone, WTW's managing director, Health and Benefits.

"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," Stone says. "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."

However, the survey of nearly 5,000 U.S. employees by the Arlington, Virginia-based consultants also found that nearly half of respondents have deferred medical care since the start of the pandemic, primarily over COVID-19 and money concerns.

The 2020 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey also found that:

  • 44% have deferred medical care during the pandemic with 30% either cancelling or postponing a treatment or appointment; 25% said their medical provider has cancelled or postponed a treatment or appointment.
     
  • 61% said they are worries about COVID-19 for deferring care; 42% cited money concerns.
     
  •  29% of employees who have deferred care said their health suffered as a result of cancelling an appointment or treatment, while 40% expect their health will suffer.
     
  • 26% said they will increase their healthcare use when the pandemic ends. 53% with a chronic condition who deferred care expect to significantly increase their use of healthcare services when the pandemic ends.
     
  • One in three employees have used virtual care for regular screening and checkups. One in five have used virtual care for mental healthcare or treatment for a new illness.
     
  • Virtual care has opened additional pathways for employees to access care, especially for low-income employees, who are more than 40% more likely to say they got the care they needed when using virtual care.
     
  • 15% reported their physical health had declined due to the pandemic. 22% said their physical health had improved, while 63% indicated no change.
     
  • 29% said their mental/emotional health had worsened; 53% indicated there was no change, and 18% reported an improvement.
     
  • More employees reported improvements than declines in their lifestyle habits (26% versus 23%) and work/life balance (27% versus 21%); however, 42% said their social connections had worsened.  

“Virtual care turned out to be just what the doctor ordered during the pandemic.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

44% have deferred medical care during the pandemic with 30% either cancelling or postponing a treatment or appointment; 25% said their medical provider has cancelled or postponed a treatment or appointment.

61% said they are worries about COVID-19 for deferring care; 42% cited money concerns.

 29% of employees who have deferred care said their health suffered as a result of cancelling an appointment or treatment, while 40% expect their health will suffer.

26% said they will increase their healthcare use when the pandemic ends. 53% with a chronic condition who deferred care expect to significantly increase their use of healthcare services when the pandemic ends.

One in three employees have used virtual care for regular screening and checkups. One in five have used virtual care for mental healthcare or treatment for a new illness.

Virtual care has opened additional pathways for employees to access care, especially for low-income employees, who are more than 40% more likely to say they got the care they needed when using virtual care.


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