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More than half of employers kept centers open, while nearly 80% added or increased the use of virtual care, Willis Towers Watson survey finds
ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 17, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — 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,” 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.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 surveyThe 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.