With “sick days” costing the UK economy £100 billion a year and the average waiting time to see a GP having risen to 2 weeks, it is no wonder that employee sickness has become a real issue for UK businesses. Health is the greatest benefit a company can offer their employees and the introduction of an online GP service within the work place can help to create a healthier and more productive work force as well as begin to reduce the cost of the nation’s employee sick bill.
According to a People in Management survey last year, 70% of people said they called in sick to work due to minor illness, highlighting a huge amount of people who are absent when they don’t need to be and who could get back to work sooner if they could see a doctor, quickly and from the comfort of their own desktop or device.
There is now an ever-growing portfolio of apps and digital solutions being presented by health-tech companies to help to tackle the long waiting times for patients, reduce the pressure on the NHS and offer on-demand access to a doctor at the touch of a button, helping to get employees healthier, quicker.
In reality, many of us are already regularly using technology to access healthcare. Telemedicine can be defined in a number of ways, for example, patients might say that if they make a phone call to the GP surgery and receive an instant “solution” either over the phone or by sending an email, then that is telemedicine because you are using technology through your phone or PC to seek medical advice.
Currently, video consultations are less widely used but (as we’ve seen in highly successful models in the US and Ireland) it is a practice which can help to eliminate waiting times, provide patients with an immediate diagnosis or second opinion and, when introduced into the workplace, can drastically help to reduce absenteeism. It’s an exciting phenomenon that HR directors and all employers can ill-afford to ignore!
A recent study we conducted at VideoDoc showed that 52% of people had delayed seeking medical advice because they were worried about taking time off work, a stat that rose to 70% amongst people working in London. The use of telemedicine within the work place can reduce this problem as employees will have access to a doctor at all times. And, for any HR directors or business owners who are thinking introducing this to employees I would highly recommend finding an area which would be a quiet and private environment for an employee to have their video consultation.
For employees there are many advantages of using telehealth services. They no longer have to take time off work for GP appointments, feel frustrated waiting for slots to become available, travel to their surgery, which may be some distance from work, or arrange childcare to cover their appointments. And, with many telemedicine services operating seven days a week covering more than 12 hours a day, people can access immediate appointments that suit them.
Being able to see a GP within working hours through a video consultations has enormous benefits for a company, not only do they have a healthy and productive work force but it reduces the amount of pressure that other members of the team can be put under when somebody is off sick. Although, presentism can also be a problem for employers if someone is feeling really unwell and is unable to concentrate at work, viruses and sickness can be spread around an office very quickly. In this case, I would advise encouraging your employees to stay at home and using their telehealth service from there and getting healthier quicker.
Many companies are introducing wellness initiatives such as providing healthy food in the staff canteen, workplace gyms, encouraging staff to cycle to work, and training managers to support their staff in times of stress.
And, with health insurance being one the highest benefit costs for employers to deliver, many companies are seeing the attractions of offering site health MOTs, wearable devices so employees can track their fitness levels and telemedicine services as alternative and more cost-effective ways of investing in their workforce health and fitness.
The growing reliance on technology will also be a key driver influencing the growth in telemedicine, with usage expected to be particularly amongst tech savvy younger employees.
So, what do CEOs need to consider before introducing telemedicine services into the work place?
- Are you currently looking for a new and cost effective way to introduce employee wellbeing and health benefits?
- What is the current level of absenteeism in your workplace?
- Is there a record of requests for time off for GP appointments?
- Are you able to provide a quiet, private room for employees to hold their consultations away from their desks?
- Why not assign a member of the HR team the role of “Telehealth Champion” to assist and advise employees?
Technology has changed how we work and live. Now it’s changing how we manage our health at home and in the workplace. It will not only improve how we access information and monitor our health, but also how we interact with doctors. Telehealth is bringing the doctor’s house call into the 21st century, offering timely, safe and effective online healthcare services.
It really should be something at the top of all CEO’s checklists.