Life is complicated. Busy, ever changing. And our overall health and well-being is complex too. A delicate ecosystem of many moving parts. Life, work, family, money, mental health, physical well-being. All connected, all part of who we are, and all impacting on how we feel at different times. This has never been more evident than it is during COVID-19 last 12 months – where we have adapted the way we live, work and play and our whole health has been significantly impacted as a result. We are more reliant than ever on digital services to support us with everything from eating more healthily and increasing physical activity, to improving sleeping patterns and looking after mental and financial health. This is of course in addition to us depending on digital tools to keep us connected with friends, loved ones, and colleagues.
Virtual health care comes of age
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the uptake of virtual health care has been phenomenal. The telemedicine market in Europe is expected to from USD 9.93 billion in 2020 to USD 19.2 billion in 2025. What’s more, according to Cigna’s latest COVID-19 Pulse Survey, 59% of virtual health users are encouraged to use telehealth services due to social distancing and to minimise their contact with others. These results also show that telehealth appointments prove most popular with users looking for generic health support, followed by prescriptions and mental health support. The shift toward virtual healthcare has been so quick that demand for Cigna’s virtual health services has increased by 500% since the beginning of the pandemic.
These virtual consultations – where people can discuss health concerns from the comfort of their own home – are the perfect way to access quality care quickly and conveniently, anywhere, anytime – helping to return us to health when we’re feeling poorly and all done via our phone. However, as anyone engaged in their own healthcare knows, prevention is far better than cure.
Digital tools encourage a more proactive approach to whole heath
By syncing digital tools such as fitness trackers and smart watches with our phones, they can play a significant role in helping people manage and maintain their whole health. Being physically and mentally fit and healthy has never been more important especially because around 91% of COVID-19 deaths occur in people with pre-existing health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and weakened immune systems.
Fitness trackers are a popular way to proactively manage and monitor whole health to take preventative action against COVID-19. Considering people with underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of developing a serious illness as a result of COVID-19, healthy eating, exercising regularly and reducing alcohol consumption can all help to build a healthy immune system, fight off viruses and infections, and defer the onset of chronic illnesses.
These wearable devices also encourage users to be more accountable for their overall health to help improve sleep, increase physical activity, maintain a healthy weight and set their own individual health goals – with an attractive dashboard and reporting available via an app on the user’s smartphone.
Most wearables nowadays can also track body temperature, heart and pulse rates and monitor movement patterns. This makes them an ideal tool in the fight against COVID-19. The data can be used to track and isolate potential COVID-19 cases, help enforce social distancing and prevent community spread. The data collected from fitness trackers could also help identify who has COVID-19 more accurately than tracking symptoms alone. This is possible by analysing the normal health data of users when they are well and identifying subtle changes that could indicate early signs of a virus.
Digital tools to support your employees’ whole health
COVID-19 has helped transform the way employers think about the health of their employees. They are paying more attention to what a healthy workforce really means to them – or more importantly how does an unhealthy workforce impact them as a business. Employers are now recognising the way employees work - and want to work, has changed beyond recognition and they are looking for more support from their employer. They want a better work/life balance, more support with their mental health at work and more help beyond work for their overall health. Gone are the days where standalone healthcare packages that treat an employee's ill health are an acceptable employee benefit. Instead, employers should be offering support to help prevent illness, promoting good health in every area of their employees’ lives, both physically and mentally. Employer provided tools are essential for looking after the whole health of every employee and are necessary in every workplace wellness strategy.
Health and wellbeing apps, like Cigna’s Body&Mind, provide a suite of tools and resources, on demand, to establish healthy habits, track progress, connect with others on interactive challenges and build resilience to stress using advice from wellness experts. By providing your employees access to health and wellbeing apps, your people will have fast access to everything they need to support their whole health and will create a culture of wellness within the business.
Employers can also provide their employees access to virtual health consultations as part of their health cover. Employees can arrange a consultation by phone or real-time video chat and speak to a licensed doctor 24/7. And, often, if you provide employees with an Employee Assistance Programme they can click on the number within the app to be put straight through to this service as well.
By providing employees with access to health and well-being apps and virtual health consultations, employers be encouraging employees to change their lifestyle behaviours and manage their whole health to stay well with a decent immune system, ready to fight off future illnesses and delay the onset of chronic disease.
The future of whole health in the palm of your hand
As we continue to navigate through blurred boundaries between home life and work life while constantly reacting to an ever evolving external environment, we must remain focused on our whole health and sustain our resilience levels. We can seek comfort in knowing that digital tools are here to support us – providing access to health care and advice, and encouraging us to keep on moving with the latest apps and fitness trackers. These tools are vital in our fight against COVID-19 and to help us look after our whole health.