Nearly half of US workers say they would have greater confidence in a new digital health solution if it was provided by their employer, and more than a quarter said that the provision of digital health tools would have a positive impact on their decision to stay with their employer, according to data featured in a recent Mercer Marsh Benefits, Mercer and Oliver Wyman report.
To determine the attitudes of employers and employees toward novel health technologies, the companies polled 16,564 works and 1,300 “senior decision makers” from 13 countries — 2,051 and 100 of whom hailed from the US.
Worldwide, only 5% of employees said they would never be interested in trying out an employer digital health offering, with those most interested in these technologies often skewing younger.
When presented with a range of different hypothetical employer-sponsored digital health offerings, specific interests varied from country to country. In the US for example, 39% said that an app that helped them find a provider would be either “extremely” or “highly” valuable to them and their family, followed by electronic personal health records (38%), health condition self-management tools (36%) and telemedicine for common ailments (36%). Meanwhile, wearables for chronic condition self-management were most popular in the UK, while companion robots to support aging family members in the home reigned in China.
Of note, employers also sound as if they’re answering the bell. Ninety-four percent of US employers said that health and well-being investments will be either equally or increasingly a priority in the comping years. Four in 10 polled US employer said they believed that digital health offerings would help their company retain its staff, with 68% saying they plan to increase investment into digital health products over the next five years.
WHY IT MATTERS
“The results from the Health on Demand survey gives credence to the assumption that there continues to be significant opportunity for digital health companies within the employer space,” Mercer’s Center for Health Innovation Leader Kate Brown told MobiHealthNews in an email Q&A. “One data point from Health on Demand demonstrated that employers’ commitment to investing in digital health programs is stronger than ever, and that commitment is strengthening. Sixty-eight percent of US employers surveyed plan to invest in digital health and well-being solutions over the next five years.”
Brown further supported the case for digital health products as employer benefits by citing prior survey data collected by her group, which suggested that 57% of larger employers (5,000 or more employees) and 41% of smaller employers (500 to 4,999 employees) are already using technologies to drive health engagement.
From the perspective of the employees, she said that a couple key survey responses highlight why many individuals would be willing to give these kinds of digital tools a shot.
“The two top-rated health innovations for US workers were ‘Personal individual and family medical records that are electronic and portable’ and ‘An app that helps people find the right doctor or medical care when and where they need it,’" Brown said. “The underlying commonality within these two innovations (and among many of the others that we surveyed workers on) is the convenience for the individual. Digital health solutions enable individuals to more easily access and engage with their health in ways that have become common-place in other areas of daily life. As we see digital health continue to take hold, I expect we’ll see a rapid adoption curve of those solutions that create convenience for the end user.”
THE LARGER TREND
Interest in digital health tools among employers and employees alike isn’t a new development, although some previous investigations suggested that the two groups had their eyes on different types of services. Consumer-friendly devices like Apple Watches and Fitbits are becoming an increasing staple of some employers’ wellness plans, while digital health management and coaching services like Livongo have touted the ROI they can offer. And just this week Hinge Health CEO and cofounder Daniel Perez stressed to MobiHealthNews the strength of the employer health market as a factor in his company’s recent success and investor confidence.
Assessing Emerging Technologies
In February, MobiHealthNews will be taking a closer look at how digital tools are validated and assessed by health systems, payers and investors.