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Survey: Employers Bullish on Telemedicine Consultations

August 4, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Nearly eight in 10 (78 percent) of employers currently offer telemedicine consultations, with another 16 percent planning to or considering to by 2019, according to a recent survey from advisory firm Willis Towers Watson.

The survey regarding employers’ healthcare plans included results from 555 employers with at least 1,000 employees. Also related to technology, 26 percent of employers currently promote wearable devices for tracking physical activity to their employees, with another 18 percent planning to or considering to by 2019.

What’s more, 19 percent of employers currently encourage the use of mobile apps for condition management or health risk reduction for their employees, with another 28 percent planning to or considering to by 2019.

Overall, employers expect healthcare costs to increase by 5.5 percent in 2018, up from a 4.6 percent increase in 2017, the survey noted. As such, in the face of these continued cost pressures, including employee affordability, employers plan to step up cost management strategies over the next three years, including evaluation of emerging healthcare delivery solutions and improved patient navigation and health engagement.

The survey also showed that despite uncertainty about the future of healthcare legislation, employer confidence in offering employee healthcare benefits has reached its highest level since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Ninety-two percent of employers said they are “very confident” their organization will continue to sponsor health benefits in five years.

“Cost management of health benefit programs remains the top priority for employers in 2017 and 2018,” said Julie Stone, a national healthcare practice leader at Willis Towers Watson. “While employers made significant progress over the last few years refining their subsidy and vendor/carrier strategies, many are now looking to other aspects of their health benefit programs in order to improve health and dampen future cost increases. Over the next three years, they will seek to improve patient engagement, expand the use of analytics, and efficiently manage pharmacy costs and utilization. Yet, with rising concerns about affordability, employers are challenged to keep costs low without overburdening employees financially.”

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