Employee benefits are changing. The modern workplace is diverse, multi-generational, and can be spread over multiple locations, and employee benefits need to keep up with the evolving nature of the modern office and all the people who work in it.

A "one size fits all" package is no longer a solution. Instead, to attract and retain talent, companies need to find benefits that will appeal to everyone and can be customised for each individual.

There's no easy solution, but there is a strong starting point: health matters to everyone.

Employees want health benefits. A 2019 survey found that as many as 40% of employees want health benefits added to their package.1

There's one health benefit in particular that should appeal to employers and employees alike.  It covers the full medical spectrum, from an ongoing migraine to a hip replacement to a serious illness.

For many modern companies, second medical opinions are the ideal employee health benefit.

What are second opinions?

Second opinions are exactly what they sound like: a second doctor reviews a patient's case, to double-check on the diagnosis and on treatment options. This review often has dramatic results. 40% of cancer patients in the UK are misdiagnosed at least once, while 21% of UK patients say they waited more than six months for a correct diagnosis.2

As an employee benefit, second opinions were once restricted as a part of Group Income Protection, part of a more expensive package and only covering 2.1 million UK employees, a mere 7% of the UK workforce.3 But now, offered as a standalone or add-on benefit, they are more accessible than ever before.

They offer a full review of a medical diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan by specialists from around the world. And they make it easy to request a second medical opinion; in some cases, case managers can even help advise when a patient should get a second medical opinion.

Getting a second medical opinion is possible from the UK and abroad. Second opinions can occur remotely, where the patient only needs a copy of their medical records, via telephone, or via a face-to-face consultation, depending upon the patient's needs and requirements. And based on the company's employees and needs, second opinions can cover all specialties or be limited to a few key ones.

Why are second opinions useful for employees and employers?

Second medical opinions offer world-class expertise from some of the world's leading specialists. They're a benefit that many employees are already looking for.

COVER reported that both employers and employees were looking to second opinions, particularly in their ability to encourage individuals to take greater responsibility for their own health.4

A second opinion has the real potential to change a life. In 2016, nearly a quarter of all deaths in the UK were considered avoidable. And deaths from neoplasms (cancers and other non-cancerous tissue growths) were the leading cause of avoidable deaths.5

Given the increasing risk of a cancer diagnosis (1 in 2 people born in the UK after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime6), finding the right doctor and treatment plan is all-important.

A second opinion means that patients aren't just part of a "conveyer belt" treatment course, but are taken seriously, studied carefully, and offered the most appropriate option for their health.

Second opinions fit into a growing awareness in UK workplaces of health and wellbeing. Employees come from diverse backgrounds and age groups, as we have seen, but overall more employees are retiring later.

It's typical to see employees working into their late seventies, eager to stay in the workplace for as long as they can, and a good stable of health benefits can contribute greatly to this.

For employees

A second opinion health benefit gives employees:

  • Peace of mind: The knowledge that should illness strike, they will be treated carefully and thoughtfully by medical experts.
  • More control of their health: For both employees and their families, the ability to get a second opinion can dramatically change the course of their treatment, as well as giving them more information and a greater understanding of their healthcare options.
  • Access no matter their lifestyle factors: Second opinions are open to everyone, no matter their demographic, medical history, or personal lifestyle choices.

For employers

Second opinions are useful for companies, too, as they:

  • Reduce absenteeism: With the correct diagnosis and timely treatment, employees don't have to miss as much work.
  • Stay affordable: Second opinions are a fixed price service for all, and inexpensive to implement compared to traditional health benefits.
  • Improve workplace happiness: Employees have the peace of mind and control they need over their health.
  • Have one price for every employee: Many health benefits vary wildly in price, depending upon factors like medical history, smoking, lifestyle and ages. A second opinion can be applied to any employee, no matter their lifestyle or history.
  • Improve companies' bottom lines: Major illnesses like cancer, MS, strokes and heart disease cost the UK economy over £15bn a year.7 

Flexible, affordable, and easy

Second medical opinions aren't a "fix-all" to a workplace's health needs, but we shouldn't be looking for fix-all solutions anymore. Instead, companies should look for flexible, responsive benefits that can make a real difference to their employees' lives.

Here, second medical opinions are invaluable. They can work brilliantly as an add-on to existing healthcare benefits like PMI or CII, and can also contribute immeasurable value to employees as a standalone benefit.

Medical risks are increasing as we work longer. This can mean higher absence rates, as well as longer absence durations.

Employers need to address this by offering the best possible health benefits to employees in a way that companies can easily implement and afford.

Second opinions enable companies to give employees peace of mind with a customisable, low-cost health benefit that's very easy to administer and use.

Get in touch if you'd like to learn more about adding second opinions to your benefits package.

  1. "Two-fifths want health insurance as an employee benefit", Employee Benefits, Feb. 2019
  2. "Four out of 10 cancer patients initially misdiagnosed, finds report warning of pressures in testing", The Independent, Dec. 2018
  3. GRID, 2019
  4. "Employers 'increasingly keen to offer second medical opinion'", Cover Magazine, Dec. 2018
  5. UK Office for National Statistics, 2018
  6. Cancer Research UK, 2018
  7. "Critical illness creates £15bn hit to UK economy", YourMoney, Nov. 2018

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