Digital Medical Solutions Ever More Attractive to Employees Says Research

A wide-ranging survey of workers around the global have found that many believe access to employer-provided healthcare is a major benefit and would enhance staff retention.

Mercer Marsh Benefits, Mercer and Oliver Wyman have published the results of its inaugural ‘Health on Demand’ which surveyed more than 16,000 workers and 1,300 employers in 13 markets around the world, including seven mature markets and six growth markets.

Insights from the survey, which compares and contrasts separate views of workers and employers, suggest that new technologies may be a game-changer for US employers that face the highest health benefit costs in the world as they strive to satisfy employees’ desire for quality, convenient and affordable healthcare. In fact, nearly seven in ten (68%) of the US employers surveyed plan to invest more in digital health solutions over the next five years.

Nearly half of US workers (49%) said they are excited by the prospect of a digital transformation of healthcare. Importantly, 48% said they would have more confidence in a digital health solution if it were offered by their employer, and 26% even say they would be more likely to stay with an employer that offered digital health solutions, such as an app to locate providers or access to virtual healthcare.

“The findings from the ‘Health on Demand’ survey confirm our belief that employers looking to build a workplace culture of well-being and to improve talent retention should consider digital health investments,” said Hervé Balzano, Mercer President, Health. “Otherwise they risk being left behind in today’s competitive global labour markets.”

Respondents were shown a list of 15 specific digital health solutions and asked how valuable each would be to them or their families. The solution that the most workers said they would value, both globally and in the US, is an app that “helps find the right doctor or medical care when and where needed.” In the UK, the most popular solution was wearable technology to help self-manage chronic conditions. And in China, where 76% of workers say they are responsible for the healthcare of a family member (compared to an average of 53% across all 13 countries), the most popular digital health solution was “companion robots that help elderly relatives stay healthy at home”, the solution that ranked near last or last in each of the 12 other countries surveyed.

Workers were also asked how willing they would be to try each of the 15 solutions. Nearly all US workers (94%) were willing or very willing to try at least one. Across the growth markets, workers were willing to try an average of 10 digital health solutions, compared to an average of 5 in mature markets. To some extent, this disparity may reflect generational influence; a higher percentage of workers in growth markets are Millennials and Gen Z (54%) compared to the workers in mature markets (43%), and younger people tend to be early adopters of technology regardless of geographic location.

“The survey found that while people have different comfort levels with digital health in general, they are open to solutions that squarely address their values and needs, like an easier way to find the right care,” said Kate Brown, Mercer’s Centre for Health Innovation Leader. “In the US, more than in most countries, the cost of healthcare is an important concern. That may point the way to digital solutions that help reduce out-of-pocket spending, like telehealth and wearables.”

“’Health on Demand’ reminds us that employees treat the digital experiences they have in other parts of their lives as the standard for the health benefits they receive from their employers,” said Sam Glick, Leader of the Oliver Wyman Health Innovation Centre. “Yet, without paying significant attention to communication, experience, and privacy, employers won’t see that expectation translate to meaningful engagement.”

Interest in digital health solutions is part of a broader focus on workplace culture of health. Clearly, employers in the US believe in the importance of employee well-being; a full 94% say their organization will invest more or the same amount in health and well-being initiatives over the next five years. Further, 77% believe that their organization cares about their workers’ well-being. When workers were asked the same question, however, just 52% said they believe their employer cares about its workers.

According to the survey, the wider the range of health and well-being resources an employer offers, from insurance coverages to subsidised nutrition or exercise programs, the more likely workers are to feel supported and energised, and the less likely they are to leave their employer. Of the US workers who are offered 10 or more such benefits, 68% believe their employers care about them, compared to just 44% of those offered five or fewer.