With COVID-19 razing through the economy and showing no imminent signs of eradication, employers are seeking ways to safely transition employees back to onsite-work. Pre-COVID, employees with mild flu-like symptoms would come to work, without much thought or consideration. However today with the pandemic, organizations cannot allow potentially infected individuals in the workplace, but neither can they keep healthy employees away. Undoubtedly, this is a tough balance to strike. In this novel situation, telehealth solutions have been nothing short of a saviour.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth and/or telemedicine is the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely and manage healthcare. These include technologies that allow patients to communicate with their clinicians virtually as well as use remote patient monitoring (RPM) to gather biometrics and vitals data to assist doctors in providing care.
Given the convenience offered by telehealth technologies, especially in the age of social distancing, it is no surprise that the adoption of virtual primary care has increased by a whooping 5.6 times, according to a study published in February 2021. While giving employees healthcare accessibility, telehealth solutions have allowed employers to reduce absenteeism and costs. It is a win-win for both.
Telehealth Technology and Employee Safety
The use of telehealth solutions in ensuring safe return to work is of particular importance in the healthcare sector as healthcare providers are most at risk of getting infected. According to an Alberta Health Services report, 8 out of 10 health workers feel that they have more than 50% chance of acquiring COVID-19 at work in the coming months. Hence, it is essential for employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees across the board.
Telehealth offers unique safe-to-work solutions that can be employed by organizations.
These can include:
Screening for COVID-19 Symptoms
Some telehealth platforms allow employees to fill out a symptom questionnaire daily at home. Depending on their answers, they can either be cleared to return to work or directed to appropriate care. This can include a telehealth visit, scheduling an in-person appointment, or resources that might include directions to the nearest COVID-19 testing centre. Safe2Work’s “Infection and COVID-19 Risk Assessment” solution uses AI technology to provide real-time tracking of related symptoms. By allowing the early detection of potential infection risk, it reduces onward infection rates and thus enhances staff morale.
Access To Primary Virtual Healthcare
With the pandemic still running its course, physicians and clinicians are prioritizing virtual visits through telephone, secure messaging and/or video conferencing over face-to-face appointments to ensure a safe continuum of care. This way, workers do not necessarily have to take a day off work to visit their physician in-person for primary healthcare. Thus, this offers both workers and physicians the flexibility and convenience while scheduling their appointments.
YourDoctors.Online is one example of how telemedicine solutions are eliminating barriers to healthcare access. This app connects patients to physicians via 24/7 online chat; eliminating lags in healthcare access due to high medical costs, the inability to get time off work and potential exposure to infection.
Gaining Access to Mental Health Services
Lastly, as healthcare workers are being encouraged to report to work in person, many are reportedly dealing with the stress and anxiety of increased exposure to infection at their workplace. This might be exacerbated by the introduction of new safety protocols and schedules as well as the fear of discrimination due to the stigma related to being infected.
Digital technologies, such a telehealth, can therefore provide employees with up-to-date resources to better deal with their returning to work anxiety. These can include access to mental health professionals and any specialized mental health guidance they may require to safely transition back to work.
What do Telehealth solutions offer employers?
While this digital technology offers all the above services to ensure worker safety, employers need to assess if the cost of adopting it can be offset by the benefits it promises. Firstly, virtual primary care offered by telehealth platforms costs less than in-person visits. This implies that insurance companies need to pay less for claims and this saving keeps premiums affordable for both employers and employees.
Secondly, with smart COVID-19 health screening tools, employers can see a reduction in absences, allowing managers to better plan shifts and mitigate losses. Backed with this holistic information offered by AI solutions like Safe2Work, managers can keep tabs on employee’s health and incorporate operational changes to efficiently account for absences.
This resultant operational efficiency allows organizations to enjoy high return on investment (ROI), contributed by cost avoidance, revenue loss avoidance, infection prevention, and absenteeism reduction. The table below shows the approximate ROI corresponding to the reduction in absences.
** Above figures are indicative, based upon approximated Infection and R0 rates, testing costs, hourly staff cost and revenue rates, etc.
Telehealth technologies, undeniably, are a much needed safety solution employers require to ensure a safe transition of their workforce back into offices and factory floors. Not only will these guarantee cost savings for them but also send a clear signal to their employees that their health and safety is the organization’s top priority. A priority which will foster a great workplace culture and pay off, both in the short and long run.
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Who are We?
A niche IT solutions and professional services provider, Markitech, developer of Safe2Work, is a digital transformation company based in the US and Canada, with software engineers and data scientists primarily focused on developing artificial intelligence (AI) applications for the healthcare and telecommunications industries.
We provide services such as custom application development and prototypes, innovative end-to-end solutions leveraging AI/5G/Cloud/IoT, creative UI/UX designs, iOS/Android mobile, web and wearable app development and staff augmentation tools and training programs. Markitech has completed several game changing solutions including SenSights.ai, vEYEtals, YourDoctors.Online, Signia, and many more.
Book a free consultation today to see how can help digitally transform your business at https://markitech.ca/our-services/
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Contributor: Mariam Javed