More than 80% of employer health centers added or increased the use of virtual care options in place of in-person visits, according to a new survey from advisory firm Willis Towers Watson.
The Willis Towers Watson Health Care Delivery Survey, conducted between August and September, asked 107 employers with onsite or near-site health centers, about delivery changes during the pandemic.
More than half (52%) of respondents said they kept those health centers open to in-person visits during the pandemic. Of those employers who did close centers, 27% said they'd reopened at least one center and 19% said they kept them closed temporarily. Only 2% said they permanently shuttered a health center.
However, the pandemic has changed some plans in terms of employee care. Half of the respondents (50%) who were planning on expanding a center or adding a new center have delayed or canceled those plans. Only 10% say they have accelerated their health center expansion plans. Half of the employers said they were planning to expand a center or add a new center. Of those employers that expanded virtual options, nearly 60% said they plan to make the changes permanent.
“With employees’ health care needs shifting amid the pandemic, health centers are looking for ways to reinvent themselves,” said Kara Speer, national practice leader of employer-sponsored health centers for Willis Towers Watson. “Most centers no longer view themselves as a facility to provide merely in-person primary and acute care and now offer additional services, including enhanced virtual care, to complement in-person visits.”
The survey also found 43% either added or expanded their role in chronic condition management or intend to do so in the future and 30% of employers said they plan to expand remove monitoring. In all, the survey found, 46% of employers offer chronic condition management virtually while 41% offer virtual behavioral health services, 33% offer virtual care navigation, and 21% offer virtual physical therapy.
“The pandemic made many employers reevaluate the role of their health centers and the scope of services they provide,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, M.D., population health leader of Willis Tower Watson’s North American Health and Benefits practice in a statement. “Even with fewer employees at physical workplaces, we expect onsite and near-site health centers will continue to play an important role in maintaining and improving employee health.”