U.S. employers increasing focus on virtual care, mental health in 2021: survey

Nearly half (45 per cent) of U.S. employers see investments in health and well-being as an integral part of their workplace strategy, compared to 36 per cent that said the same in 2019 and 27 per cent in 2018, according to an annual survey by Business Group on Health.

The survey, which polled 122 large employers with a total of more than nine million employees, noted this is spurred in part by the coronavirus pandemic, which is shining a light on the connection between employee health and well-being and overall business performance.

In particular, the survey found virtual care is here to stay, with some 80 per cent of respondents saying virtual care will have a significant impact on the way care is delivered in the future. In addition, 53 per cent of respondents said they intend to implement more virtual care solutions, while 36 per cent said they’ll expand their mental-health services and 31 per cent will develop a more focused strategy for high-cost drug claims.

Read: How OPG is leveraging virtual care to improve health access

Looking further at mental health, the survey found employers have doubled down on mental health and emotional well-being. The vast majority (88 per cent) of respondents said they offer online resources, such as apps, articles, videos and webinars, compared to 69 per cent that said the same in 2019 and 58 per cent in 2018. In addition, 65 per cent said they provide mental-health training for managers, compared to 47 per cent in 2019 and 30 per cent in 2018.

However, while many employers said they’re continuing to focus on their efforts to improve the outcomes, quality, cost and overall delivery of their health-care experience for employees, many acknowledged that the rate of implementation has been impacted and overshadowed due to the requirement to prioritize critical emerging issues brought forth by the pandemic.

While 24 per cent of respondents said they’re not waiting to change their approach or implement new offerings, 21 per cent said they’re deferring to their health partners at this time and 19 per cent are taking a wait-and-see approach.

Read: 63% of Canadian employers investing in employee well-being for post-pandemic: survey

Despite the pandemic, onsite services are expected to grow and play a critical role in 2021 and beyond. The services, which include clinics and mental-health counsellors, have proven to be flexible enough to adapt to the current landscape. In 2020, 58 per cent of respondents said they offer these services, up only slightly on 2019 (56 per cent) and 2018 (55 per cent). But looking ahead, 61 per cent said they’re considering these services for 2021 and 72 per cent said the same for 2023.