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Employer health centers are reinventing themselves, seeking permanent expansion of virtual care added during pandemic

More than half of employers kept centers open, while nearly 80% added or increased the use of virtual care, Willis Towers Watson survey finds

Health and Benefits
COVID 19 Coronavirus

December 17, 2020

ARLINGTON, VA, December 17, 2020 — The vast majority of employers with onsite or near-site health centers either added or increased virtual care services in place of in-person visits during the pandemic, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. Additionally, over half of centers that expanded their virtual care services plan to make those changes permanent.

More than half (52%) of respondents have kept their onsite or near-site health centers open to in-person visits during the pandemic. The employers that closed centers have either reopened at least one center (27%), kept them closed temporarily (19%) or permanently shuttered them (2%). Half (50%) of respondents that were planning to expand a center or add a new center temporarily delayed or cancelled those plans. One in 10 (10%) accelerated its onsite or near-site health center expansion plans.

With employees’ health care needs shifting amid the pandemic, health centers are looking for ways to reinvent themselves.”

Kara Speer
National practice leader, Employer-Sponsored Health Centers, Willis Towers Watson

“With employees’ health care needs shifting amid the pandemic, health centers are looking for ways to reinvent themselves,” said Kara Speer, national practice leader, Employer-Sponsored Health Centers, 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.”

Indeed, nearly half (48%) of health centers have increased the scope of services available through virtual care during the pandemic, and over half of them (57%) expect to keep these services permanently. Health centers now provide a variety of virtual services, including chronic condition management (46%), behavioral health (41%), care navigation (33%) and physical therapy (21%). An additional one in 10 is planning or considering offering more of these services virtually in the future.

The survey also found over four in 10 centers (43%) either added or expanded their role in chronic condition management or intend to do so in the future. About a third of companies with health centers (30%) are expanding or planning to expand remote monitoring.

Health centers’ plans to add or expand virtual services come at a time when more employees plan to use them. According to a recent Willis Towers Watson survey of nearly 5,000 U.S. employees, almost half of respondents used virtual care services during the pandemic, reporting positive experiences, and 70% said they are likely or very likely to use these services in the future.

“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. “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.”

About the survey

The survey results are based on responses from 107 employers with onsite or near-site health centers who participated in the Willis Towers Watson Health Care Delivery Survey, conducted in August and September 2020.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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