How to maintain employees’ health in an age of long wait times and doubtful digital diagnosis

Pam whelan simplyhealth

Increasingly work creeps into home lives as mobile phones ping and ring at all hours. More is being demanded of employees during and outside of work hours. Work pressures put additional stresses and strains on employees’ brains and bodies, which isn’t good for business.

Maintaining a healthy, productive workforce, therefore, requires business planning. Not just insurance or an optional employee benefits plan – proactively supporting employee wellbeing, every day, has become a business necessity.

Companies need their talent well, to perform well.

And employees are demanding that their employers put in more effort to help. 40% of employees think that their employers ‘should do more’ to support their health according to July’s YouGov Everyday Health Tracker, commissioned by Simplyhealth.

At Simplyhealth, we believe the best way to do this is to empower employees to take care of their everyday health. However, that is easier said than done as many employees struggle to get the immediate support they need.

Latest figures from Pulse, the leading publication for GPs in the UK, suggests that the average wait for an NHS GP appointment is around 13 days, with more than 40% of patients waiting two weeks or more for a routine appointment*.

This is having a multifaceted impact on the performance of our workforces – and businesses. If our employees’ health isn’t 100%, how can we expect their output to be?

We have employees who are unwell and absent for long periods whilst they wait to see a doctor. Or employees attempting to soldier on through their illness at work, rather than join a long waiting list, spreading sickness and low morale around the workplace.

As a result, employees are looking for new ways to gain quick, easy and trustworthy access to everyday healthcare, sparking a boom in online DIY health support and services.

Self-diagnosing through Google searches is often the first port of call, whilst multitudes of web-based apps diagnose your ailment based on your symptoms and, most recently, there is even the opportunity to chat to Artificial Intelligence (AI) bots about mental health issues through Facebook Messenger.

These technologies are enabling employees to get fast answers to their problems, which, in their busy lives, is essential. But is it really safe for them to be bypassing the traditional discussion about their illness and overall health with a trained doctor, to save time?

These computerised choices don’t know our family history, our overall health, or what we’ve been eating and drinking recently. The core problem with this avenue is that the internet just isn’t well-educated enough on us as individuals to give us an accurate answer – and often comes up with scary suggestions.

A headache definitely means you have meningitis. That lump on the back of your wrist? It’s got to be a cancerous tumour. Whilst that itchy rash means your days are numbered.

So, as an employer, how can you provide fast access for employees to get the support from a human expert when waiting times are so long, and computerised diagnosis just isn’t cutting the mustard?

At Simplyhealth, we’ve found a solution that works. As part of our health cash plan, we provide employees with around the clock access to an experienced, qualified GP over the phone or via webcam – getting the best of both worlds. A GP when your employee needs it, at a time which suits them.

Employees get a choice of times to pick when is best for them – whether 2pm or 2am, enabling them to fit in their ‘appointment’ in and around their commitments. The doctor has an unlimited amount of time to discuss the problems, and with permission, can access the employee’s full medical history. The doctor can even prescribe medication if needed which will arrive at the employee’s location of choice the very next day.

And, to make it even easier, this autumn, Simplyhealth has launched its myGP app – truly empowering employees to take care of their everyday health with the swipe of a touchscreen.

In a technology age where people and machines seem interchangeable, people increasingly become the source of business difference and advantage. Yet, while the technology runs faster and better than ever, employees are not maintained as well.

This needs to be reversed – and now.

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