Digital health solutions are seeing a spike in demand and are now considered a necessity for the workforce as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep and resurge across the world. As employers look at the new shape of work, they are also keenly aware of providing health and wellness benefits to employees to ensure continued productivity and retention.
Prior to COVID-19, there were already strong signs that employees wanted their employers to provide digital health benefits. The 2020 Health on Demand Report produced by Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) and sister company Oliver Wyman earlier in the year found that 51% of employees in Singapore felt their workplace needed to offer a better pro-health environment and 33% said they would be much less likely to move elsewhere if their employer offered digital health solutions.
As the pandemic continues and a majority of the workforce remains working remotely and in increasingly decentralized ways even as restrictions are eased, MMB Singapore has recorded a significant increase in demand from clients for both the implementation and utilization of digital health solutions. It has seen a four-fold increase in employers offering telehealth services to complement employee access to quality medical care and it has also witnessed a double in the utilization of mental health services via Employee Assistance Programs. Reflecting this shift in demand, the broader tele-health industry is seeing a 100-200% increase in active users with visits to platforms between 2 and 5 times higher than the corresponding period for the prior year.
“It’s clear and makes sense that there is growing demand for digital health solutions during this extraordinary time. The new shape of work brought on by the pandemic has forced accelerated transformation across organisations and has also fundamentally changed behaviours forever. The future is here and offering digital health solutions is no longer a question of an innovative preference but a necessity. Employers need to respond to demands that require them to support the physical, emotional, financial and social wellbeing of their workforce and this will set them apart in the long run,” said Neil Narale, Singapore Health Leader at Mercer Marsh Benefits.
According to the Mercer Health on Demand report completed before COVID-19 struck, more than half of employers (56%) in Singapore said they were more likely to invest more in digital health in the next five years. However, the report also found employees in Singapore remained relatively slow adopters of related technology and almost half (49%) of Singaporean employees were waiting for others to test out new technologies before they were willing to try themselves. MMB expects that COVID-19 and the surge in demand for such services will have changed those dynamics significantly.
“The business case for digital healthcare has never been clearer and, in fact, is becoming a necessity as people are unable or reticent to seek physical medical help. For organisations, the question becomes how to manage costs against facilitating a return to work while looking ahead at the challenges they might face. It will become a balancing act between how the workforce might be reinvented with investing in personalized, technology-based healthcare solutions to foster an agile culture of wellbeing and responsiveness to build a more engaged, productive and loyal workforce,” Mr Narale said.
Kitty Lee, Partner and head of Oliver Wyman’s Health and Life Sciences Asia Pacific, added, “The signs suggest that digital health has become ‘mainstream’ in Singapore and that the consumer supports this as our new normal. The good news is that we will continue to see more options emerge: the healthcare incumbents– from insurers to brick-and-mortar hospitals –already see this writing on the wall and increasingly will include digital health offerings such as telemedicine, remote monitoring, and digital therapeutics in their portfolios. The landscape will no longer be just a playing field for start-ups and innovators, but more of a hybrid with incumbents participating too, as digital health becomes part of the fabric of Singapore’s health system.”
Employers now have access to a wider range of insurance products and services that enable them to offer benefit programs that recognise different segments of the workforce, while giving employees the flexibility and freedom to administer and manage benefits not only for themselves and their families. To do so, they will need to judiciously manage and reshape their health and benefit programs through careful plan design to both optimise cost and ensure those programs are tailored to the health needs of their employees.
To read more about the both the employer and employee perspective on digital health solutions, read the Mercer Marsh Benefits 2020 Health on Demand Singapore report here.