By now you will know about the rapid uptake in telemedicine after the COVID-19 pandemic drove patients to use virtual appointments with their doctors.

While this form of medicine seems like it’s here to stay, there are other technologies that employers can look to include in their group health plans to help employees get the most out of their benefits, better manage their health and make more informed decisions about care.

And surveys of employees have found that employees want more from technology to be further woven into their benefits. Here are three technologies that can boost your current health benefits.

Apps and patient portals

More health plans are starting to offer user-friendly apps and online patient portals to allow their enrollees to manage their health care.

They are essentially convenient one-stop shops where they can, among other things:

  • Find a doctor.
  • Schedule appointments or doctor’s visits, annual exams and other procedures.
  • Receive reminders about important preventative care services, such as regular colonoscopies, blood work and vaccinations.
  • Renew prescriptions.
  • Check test results.
  • Get advice on managing chronic conditions.

The best apps and portals will allow enrollees to access their medical records, and to share them with their doctors or specialists they are seeing even if a doctor is not in the same health system that stores the health records.

By being able to share records with specialists in this manner, employees and their providers can streamline and better co-manage patient care. This can be crucial for patients with chronic conditions.

Some health plan portals and apps will also serve as the platform for virtual care visits with their doctors.

Real-time health tracking

One of the new frontiers in health care is remote patient monitoring, thanks to an explosion in new smartphone and tablet apps as well as wearable technology.

A 2021 survey by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society found that 52% of providers had recommended that patients use a smartphone or tablet app to monitor and track their care and health.

Additionally, 36% said they had recommended that patients wear a smartwatch or other wearable technology to monitor vitals like:

  • Heart rhythm and rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Temperature
  • Glucose levels.

In fact, a number of tech companies, including Apple Inc., have made health maintenance a major part of their platform by allowing them to user their iPhone connected to an Apple Watch to help them better manage their health by monitoring items such as the above.

There is even a function that will check to see if you are alright after falling down. And if you do not respond and are immobile for more than one minute, the watch will automatically call emergency services.

Benefits experts expect wearable technology to play an increasingly large role in helping people maintain their health and get help when they need it. In fact, a survey by Employer Health Innovation Roundtable and Hello Heart found that 65% of benefits executives expect use of remote patient monitoring to increase.

Virtual second opinions

Studies have found that 10% of patients are misdiagnosed for cancer, infections, heart attack or stroke.

Those mistakes are costly and can cost someone their life. In fact, the cost of false-positive mammograms and overdiagnosis among women accounted for $4 billion a year in health care spending, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs.

Some employers are now offering virtual second-opinion services, which allow their employees to have their case reviewed by another doctor no matter where that specialist is in the country. This service can save the patient on travel costs and time to visit the specialist.

The patients will often deal with a nurse liaison, who can:

  • Gather all of the patient’s records and send them to a specialist to review.
  • Schedule video consultations with a specialist.
  • Arrange for reports to be sent to the patient and current provider after the specialist has reviewed their case and written a report.

Having access to a second opinion after receiving some bad medical news can help give the patient peace of mind, even if the original diagnosis is correct. In cases where mistakes were made, it could be life-altering or life-saving.

The takeaway

Technology will continue playing a greater role in people’s health. Offering new services that include technologies that can improve your employees’ health care experience is a win-win for you and your workers.

They’ll be happier with their health plans and the care they receive, and you can improve your employee retention.