Healthcare professionals that aren’t utilizing text communications are failing to meet their patients where they are. A 2018 survey found 11% of patients would rather communicate via text message, a number that is expected to grow as the Millennial population begins to outnumber Boomers. Text alerts and communications can be used for a variety of services, including preventative care such as periodic appointments and flu shots, post-treatment care information, remote health monitoring and chronic disease management.
Studies show that regardless of age, few employees consider financial wellness in terms of retirement, leaving them vulnerable to serious financial difficulties in later years. When surveyed, employees of all ages named “freedom from financial stress and debt, enjoying life and being prepared for emergencies” as their ideal state of financial wellness.
While the definition of financial wellness benefits and best practices vary widely, one thing is certain – employees and employers are being negatively impacted by financial pressures and widespread financial illiteracy. A PricewaterhouseCoopers study shows that more than 40% of employees spend three hours of their work day dealing with personal finances. Be it insufficient retirement planning or struggling to make ends meet, employees across a wide spectrum of industries are in desperate need of help.
Meeting Employee Needs
The good news is that financial wellness programs are on the rise. One insurance company, in fact, expects the number of plan sponsors offering such a benefit to grow from 17% to more than 50% over the next five years. And while many employers are uncertain as to what a program might include, most agree that financial wellness is not only good for the employee’s holistic health, it creates a very positive outcome for the employer as well.
For the first time in years, Americans took more time off from work in 2017. A survey of 4,400 workers conducted by the travel industry showed that on average, 17.2 days of vacation were used last year. This was more than a full day greater than in 2014. While more vacation time was enjoyed, work pressures still kept more than half of those surveyed from using all their earned vacation days in 2017.
Modern Healthcare and other news publications have recently written about a free mobile patient app, Belong, that is providing a platform for cancer patients to connect and explore ways of improving quality of life. The American Cancer Society and Colorectal Cancer Canada are using the app to connect with patients, which was launched in 2015 by two company executives who had lost relatives to cancer. “Belongers” can share information, connect with clinicians and detail their treatment progress. The app’s biggest success has been the “Belongers” ability to share meaningful emotional support.
While awareness of mental health concerns in the workplace is increasing, studies repeatedly show that not enough employees feel comfortable utilizing mental health benefits. Furthermore, many employees are often unaware mental health benefits are even available. With more than 40 million Americans living with depression, it’s more important than ever to make sure the workplace is taking positive steps to address it. Here are positive steps your company can take:
Take a holistic approach. Addressing the many areas of wellness, including physical, financial and mental, equally can help employees feel safe enough to seek treatment through employer provided healthcare plans. Stigma is still a major barrier to access, but employers can encourage accessing treatment by putting the necessary emphasis on mental health and wellness. Providing an open space for conversation, information and support can increase overall employee mental wellness. And of course, extending benefits to all family members can prove extremely valuable.
Keep employees informed. Though your company may have excellent programs and benefits to address mental illness and depression, it’s possible that your employees are unaware of how to access them. When bringing the discussion of mental wellness into the public space it’s important that the tools and avenues to accessing help are made very clear.
Promote flexibility. Certain industries deal with more critical situations, such as safety concerns, fatigue or a high risk of injury. While there is no “off the shelf” solution to mental wellness, employers can play a major role in bringing mental health out in the open. And today more than ever, a company is only as healthy as its employees.
Consulting firm Willis Towers Watson expects more than a third of employers to offer student loan consolidation programs by 2021. This represents huge growth, since the Society of Human Resource Management says only 4% of employers offer student loan repayment benefits now. Willis also expects 35% of employers to offer student loan refinancing arrangements by 2021. Many employers offering this benefit are doing so by distributing a lump sum benefit over 5 to 8 years. It’s no surprise that this approach seems to be boosting employee retention rates – since millennials and Gen Z employees are strapped with about $30,000 of student loan debt and in many cases, lower wages than their parents were making at their age.
After rolling out a software update for its iPhone earlier this year, Apple announced that its Health Records feature is now being piloted by 39 health systems across the U.S. The feature enables patients who have medical information from multiple institutions to organize their data in one bucket containing allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vitals. Data from all participating healthcare organizations can be viewed by patients, however Apple Health Records does not currently enable patients to send messages to providers or schedule appointments. Apps from electronic health record vendors Epic and Cerner currently offer this functionality.