By Kirsty Jagielko
We live in an age where we’re busier than ever with demanding work commitments, an active home life and pressures to stay fit and healthy. Being time poor means we rely heavily on technology to help our lives run smoothly.
When it comes to managing our health, this is no different. When we’re in good health we want to maintain it. When we’re ill, we want to be seen right away and when we’ve been diagnosed with a health condition we want to be able to manage it. But where do we turn to for support? Our cash-strapped NHS is creaking at the seams and public confidence is low.
1 in 10 state they do not believe the NHS is currently meeting their health needs1. More accessible, convenient healthcare is the driving force behind emerging digital health tools. With the progression of technology, employers are now looking at ways they can help engage their staff with their health, whilst providing support immediately for any healthcare concerns. We examine the new technologies that are emerging in the private healthcare market and how they should be harnessed to best effect.
Assessing health risks
When thinking about the overall health of your workforce, it’s important to consider how to engage employees with their health risks.
Promoting and encouraging a healthier lifestyle while employees are in good general health is the key to preventing future illnesses. Utilising tools which can help identify problematic health concerns in the work place is a good starting point. And this is where healthcare providers can offer support.
Healthcare providers are ideally placed to help improve the health risk profile of their clients’ employees. Many providers offer online tools such as Health Risk Assessments (HRA’s) to help employees measure and monitor their health. For the employer, an HRA can give insight into the overall health of their employee population and identify priority health and well-being areas that need improvement.
Managing health risks
Once healthcare risks have been identified, it’s important to consider how to equip employees with the tools to help them self-manage.
Healthcare providers recognise the need for employees to manage their health on the go. So, it’s no surprise to see an increase in in the number of health and well-being apps being offered by healthcare providers. Some even provide a one stop access point throughout the health journey.
Cigna UK HealthCare Benefits is one healthcare provider who has moved beyond only treating employees when they’re unwell. Cigna’s new app, Cigna Virtual Health® enables employees to get healthy, stay healthy, and access care easily when it’s needed. Users can track their overall health and fitness by syncing their fitness tracker to the app. Key features include a symptom checker, Virtual GP appointments at times that suit, and prescriptions delivered to the workplace or home for convenience to fit around busy lives.
App users can also enjoy a personalised experience using the My Health Mate feature. It’s here that they’ll find a range of lifestyle coaching tools to help improve well-being based on an individual’s lifestyle and personality. Users can take part in a health risk assessment too. This provides immediate feedback to users helping them to measure and manage their health status and take action to improve their health and wellbeing.
Accessing primary care
When illness strikes, it’s important to support your employees quickly and help them get the care they need.
Virtual consultations are a great example of an emerging service that can help to ease the pressure of increasing demands on GPs. This technology enables GPs to consult with patients over a secure online video call on their smartphone or tablet, making health advice and support more accessible than ever.
Minor illnesses such as colds and flu, stomach upsets and migraines are a major drain on NHS primary care and account for 71% of sickness absences in the workplace2. Yet these illnesses are quick to diagnosis and treat. For those who need GP advice but are time poor, virtual GP appointments remove the barriers of time and distance. And, in addition to healthcare provider care pathways, they offer another solution for companies facing the pressures of sickness absence.
Working in partnership
Online and mobile technology is clearly becoming the healthcare delivery mechanism of the future. Emerging healthcare provider solutions are designed to make access easier, to improve health, to avoid hospital admission (or re-admission) and to lower health care costs. Recognising this and using technology to provide a fresh approach to health and well-being is important. Employers who harness and engage employees with these tools can only stand to benefit from reduced healthcare plan utilisation and sickness absence savings.
Together, we can navigate to better health.
For more information about Cigna Virtual Health® please visit www.cigna.co.uk/virtualhealth.
1 Cigna study – Cigna 360 Well-being Score Survey, September 2015, 1000 UK responses