Employee Health Access and Delivery in the New Normal

How HR and benefit leaders can prepare for COVID-19 challenges ahead.

Kaia Remote Work

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a monumental shift in how millions globally work is underway. While remote work has been on the rise over the past ten years, HR departments are now rushing to accommodate the new reality for their workforce.

For HR and benefits leaders, this transition – in terms of both focus and budget – has meant suddenly shifting entire in-office departments to remote environments and navigating new challenges related to health benefit delivery. For employee populations, this has meant grappling with limits on traditional care and turning to new remote options, including wearables, telehealth, and digital therapeutics (DTx) in the wake of canceled surgeries, mobility bans and narrowing access.

The demand already shows: virtual care leader Teladoc Health reports telehealth visits soared past 100,000 in a single week in early March, as several health plans waived consumer cost sharing and public health officials encouraged the public to take advantage of virtual care services. Kaia Health and its musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions app saw a single-day spike in usage of 40% during March.

Recognizing the new normal and challenges facing employee populations

Stephan Huber, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Kaia Health, said the change in workplace habits will create significant challenges for the management of employees with chronic conditions.

“Limited mobility and exercise plus remote work ergonomics are likely to contribute to an increased burden in musculoskeletal (MSK) pain conditions. The burden will often be accompanied by the psychological stress originating from being confined to one’s home even while working,” explained Huber. “Given there is virtually no access to face-to-face physiotherapy or other first-line treatments, access to digital treatments for these conditions should become a priority for employers.”

As the global landscape re-tools to deal with the wider acceptance and implementation of work-from-home arrangements and remote access to digital health, HR and benefits roles have several important considerations to be aware of:

  • Prepare for a long-term increase in remote work environments and situations. Newly remote workers in makeshift home office environments will present brand new challenges, including poor ergonomics leading to increased MSK disorders – already a top cost center facing employers and health plans.
  • MSK disorders will combine with new family, life and remote work challenges, which can lead to chronic pain, anxiety and even depression.

Remaining hopeful, we will ultimately emerge from what has been an exceedingly difficult, emotional and challenging time for millions around the globe. The new normal workplace will present new hurdles to overcome, but it also presents powerful opportunities to break down barriers to digital health engagement and virtual care, and to lower costs. HR and benefits leaders can make a difference by taking preemptive action to increase the effectiveness of existing at-home DTx solutions and introduce new ones. Remote DTx solutions can:

  • Immediately address reduced access to healthcare in traditional settings stemming from COVID-19 restrictions on mobility, traditional in-office care, non-critical surgical procedures and physical therapy.
  • Address workers’ unique remote-work environments and challenges, which can lead to MSK pain, other chronic conditions, and emotional stress.
  • Bring relief to users from the comfort of their own home while maintaining or reducing future MSK spend.
  • Boost the value of hands-on, personalized coaching and support available through some of the most advanced DTx apps.

A whole new world of opportunity

Remote work, virtual care and DTx are here to stay and will grow exponentially as our nation and the world emerge from COVID-19. The promising news is that advances in artificial intelligence and computer vision, multi-device app delivery, and personalization have created great opportunities for HR and benefits managers, especially those who can successfully adapt and deliver remote healthcare solutions for increased employee health, happiness and productivity.

To learn more about making DTx solutions work for your population during these challenging times, book an intro call with our team.

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Further Reading