eHealth a growing opportunity for employees and employers

12 February 2020 6 min. read

If the citizens of the Netherlands are an accurate indication, then the use of eHealth solutions will further increase in the coming years. According to a new study by Mercer and Oliver Wyman, 89% of the Dutch are willing to try out such digital innovations.

Co-researchers Mercer and Oliver Wyman surveyed over 1,000 employees and more than 100 employers for its ‘Health on Demand’ study, and found that an overwhelming share of employees are eager to ramp up their use of eHealth solutions. Most popular among the respondents are an app that helps them find the right doctor or medical care when in need, an app to help find an expert doctors based on their diagnosis from anywhere in the world, and an app that digitally keeps track of individual and family medical records.

Apps for patients to manage their own health are also popular, such as wearable technologies that keep track of personal health metrics, or an app that provides information on how to deal with certain symptoms. Digitally connecting with healthcare workers, through for instance a video-chat or text service with a doctor or nurse for simple issues like a rash or cold, is a further area in high demand.

Among those not willing to try digital health innovations

One out of ten respondents (11%) however indicated that they were not willing to try any of the 15 proposed eHealth solutions put forward for consideration. Those with negative attitudes toward eHealth cite no personal need and insufficient trust in computerised algorithms for healthcare as their top two reasons for being hesitant. Not surprisingly, data privacy and security is also a top concern.

Who is responsible for eHealth?

Both the majority of employers and employees see the provision of eHealth solutions as the primary task of health insurers, pointed to by 41% of employees and 39% of employers.

This aligns with research by Nictiz and Nivel into the state of affairs of eHealth in the Netherlands. The latest eHealth monitor found that healthcare providers are predominantly enthusiastic about e-health, due to its ability to make healthcare more proactive and to tailor applications to end users. eHealth is also seen as an important direction for dealing with the increasing workload, scarcity of staff, and high administrative burden.

The government is designated as the second expected provider; cited by 37% of employees and 29% of employers. Ranked third are the doctors or healthcare professionals themselves.

eHealth in the workplace

While companies as providers do not rate highly among respondents, according to Peter Abelskamp, Business Leader Corporate at Mercer in the Netherlands, they play an important role in “facilitating adoption and the transition to a more digitised health system.” This makes sense, as employees spend most of their time in their jobs, while many of the care complaints which people have (stress, mental issues) can be related to their employment.

Who's responsible for e-Health

“Employers can have all kinds of policies to promote eHealth, such as offering customised services online and making apps available,” says Abelskamp.

Interestingly, the survey found that a sizable chunk of employees would value such a proactive approach from their employers. In fact, employee’ confidence in eHealth solutions was found to rise significantly, up 29%, if those solutions are provided or sponsored by their employer.

But to make eHealth offered by employers workable in practice, “employers, then, must be supported by health insurers and / or the government”, stressed Abelskamp.

eHealth solutions for employers also offer great benefits, by helping to keep their employees fit and healthy. Earlier research by Mercer shows how valuable this can be; employees that are healthier and enjoy better (mental) well-being are more productive and have a lower risk of sick leave and disability – therefore reducing healthcare costs.

29% of workers are much more confident

According to some respondents, an attractive package of eHealth solutions can also contribute to talent retention (40% indicate that it contributes to the retention of staff), a benefit which in today’s increasingly competitive market for top talent is of growing importance.

eHealth solutions that fit in well within a company environment include programmes for increased exercise, incentives for healthy eating or quitting smoking, sports or yoga at the office, or video calling with a psychologist made possible by the employer.

Employers seem to be well aware of this opportunity. More than half of Dutch employers (52%) indicate that they will invest more in eHealth solutions in the coming five years, because they trust that this will contribute to the sustainable deployment of their staff.

Privacy no stumbling block

One of the bottlenecks for eHealth is the fact that employers can gain insight into personal health data. For years the discussion has raged about how far the care-chain should go as to data sharing – here in an area which is particularly sensitive and of which most people would be hesitant in sharing outside of their trusted healthcare providers.

83% of Dutch workers

The Mercer and Oliver Wyman report however found that this fear has diminished in recent years, with 83% of workers willing to share their personal health data if there is a benefit to them in doing so. Also, more than half of workers are willing to share their personal health information if this leads to a more tailored offering, while one out of five say their willingness could be motivated by a discount in fees.

With data sharing and privacy rules ramped up in 2019 under the GDPR legislation, employees tend to be confident about the capability of their employers to safely store and process their data; around seven in ten workers in the Netherlands report having some or a great deal of trust in their employer’s ability to keep their personal health information secure.