The Need for Consumer Health and Employer Health to Collide

Posted on August 31, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is sponsored by Samsung Business. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

A Towers Watson study looked at telehealth services that are offered by large employers. The main study result isn’t that surprising: more employers are offering telehealth services and more employers plan to offer telehealth services. This is part of a much larger trend where employers realize that easy access to health services is great for their employees and their business.

What was a bit surprising from the study was that despite offering telehealth services, many of the employees of these large companies aren’t actually using those services. Here’s how Megan Williams described this finding on the Insights blog:

The Towers Watson study in particular highlights one of the greatest challenges employers face in realizing the full benefit of telemedicine solutions — awareness. Many employees aren’t even aware of traditional options, so it’s highly likely that their options of digital health tools are being overlooked.

Why is it that consumers don’t realize the full breadth of telehealth options their employer provides?

The problem here is that most of us don’t look to our employer for healthcare. We look to them for insurance, but not health care. We don’t expect our employer to take an active interest in our health. In fact, often our employer would step away from suggesting “the best” doctors to us and just provide us the list of in-network doctors. It was up to us as patients to figure out who was “best.”

Given this dynamic, we’ve had to figure out how to navigate the healthcare system on our own. We were more likely to discover a new healthcare option through email, Facebook or Twitter than we were through our employer. To date, telehealth services have largely been consumer driven and so it’s no surprise that most patients discover telehealth services through other consumers and not their employer.

Will the day finally arrive that the consumer health options we seek overlap with the employer health options that my employer supports? I think we’re heading that direction. In the telemedicine space, for example, we’re starting to see some dominant industry players emerge. Large companies will only need to support a small set of telemedicine companies to cover their entire workforce and allow their employees to discover and use whichever telemedicine service they find on their own.

Patients’ interest in telehealth services will only continue to grow. Each of us has a smartphone in our pocket and we’re used to getting the answers to all our questions wherever we are and whatever we may be doing. The same is true for our health. Our health choices will be more influenced by our smartphone than our employer. That’s why employers need the consumer health and employer health worlds to collide.

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