COVID-19 fundamentally and overnight changed how employers have to address the health, wellness and safety of their employees. Employees are their greatest resource, and in an instant their safety was immediately in question — and not just physically, but mentally too. Businesses need three distinct programs in place to protect their employees while also instilling confidence that their employer cares about them and has their back: a complete COVID-19 program, better mental health and mental wellness resources, and virtual care.
A complete COVID-19 program is essential. It must include clear guidelines on what employees and the employer will do when there is a case of COVID-19 or possible exposure, medical excuse and return-to-work notes, available testing and workplace cleanliness compliance. Additionally, it all must be centered around transparent and frequent communication to employees.
Regarding mental health and mental wellness resources, prior to COVID-19 employers fell into three categories when seeking mental health resources for their employees. Category one: Don’t need it and an under-utilized EAP program is enough. Category two: Provide a more complete mental wellness/therapy option, but don’t encourage or educate employees on how to use it. Category three: Be committed to mental health and wellness, invest in the programs and actively communicate internally to decrease and ultimately eliminate the stigma of getting therapy.
Prior to COVID-19, the majority of companies were in categories one and two with only a smaller percentage in category three. COVID-19 unleashed a mental health crisis that severely impacted employees across every industry and demographic. And that mental health crisis won’t dissipate after COVID-19 is controlled. People are and will continue to be stressed out, worried and scared, and it’s hurting productivity and morale. Companies have to invest in this previously overlooked essential benefit and promote it, talk about it and continually encourage employees to utilize it.
Virtual care increased as COVID-19 forced both patients and providers into conducting visits virtually — and both loved it. Additionally, the past practice of going into a waiting room with other sick people and losing two or more hours in productivity is extremely unattractive now. Employers have to offer employees high-value virtual healthcare and other virtual services if they want to keep employees engaged.
In fact, a virtual-first model is the biggest trend now for healthcare, mental wellness, care direction and more. In particular, the virtual-first model is a win-win for employers and employees alike. With this model, employers can provide high-value benefits at a lower cost, and employees can get the care and services they want in the way they want it. Healthcare and mental wellness are both well-suited for the virtual-first model, as both can be delivered at a lower cost while keeping the standard of care high.
Virtual primary care, in particular, will become an essential offering in the months and years to come. Primary care has traditionally been handled at a doctor’s office, and even prior to COVID-19 people were often deterred from getting the care they need because of the inconveniences associated with brick-and-mortar care — like taking time off work when they aren’t sick, long waits and difficulty with scheduling, among other issues. When people neglect primary care, a host of other health issues can arise that impact their personal and professional lives. Now that Americans’ comfort level with telehealth has drastically risen, virtual primary care is a natural next step.
Two Sides of Testing
Testing is an essential for a complete COVID-19 program. The reason is two-fold — an employer needs to know who is infected quickly, begin the necessary isolation and mitigate the spread. Additionally, testing is necessary to determine who isn’t infected. Most employers can’t send groups of employees to home isolate every time there is a possible infection — they need employees working. Most employees can’t afford to not be working. Finding out who isn’t infected helps employers and employees minimize the number of non-work days.
MeMD is among the nation’s leading telehealth companies. Prior to COVID-19, we offered virtual urgent care and virtual mental health services to more than 30,000 corporate, institutional and health plan partners. As the pandemic swept the country, demand for our services surged among employers. Additionally, we launched a turnkey solution to help employers effectively manage COVID-19 in the workplace. Lastly, we are very excited about recently launching our virtual primary care service, which is specially designed to help both employers and employees.
Chief Executive Officer
Read theother “As Business Changes, So Will Our Healthcare” perspectives.
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