Demand rises for virtual care

By Higginbotham on June 23 , 2017

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If companies had a way to keep health care costs down while making employees happy, they’d have to pursue it. As it turns out, such an option exists. Telemedicine is a cost-effective care option in many situations. It’s also rising in popularity among consumers.

Telemedicine, or virtual care, refers to health care provided via telecommunications. Generally, the patient talks to a doctor over the phone or online. It’s convenient for the patient, who doesn’t have to spend hours in a waiting room or even leave home. It’s also significantly cheaper than more traditional doctor visits. A study from the Alliance for Connected Care found that telemedicine visits generally cost $40 to $50 per visit, with many employers even offering their employees a $0 copay option, providing an average savings of $126 per visit.

The same study found that telemedicine visits have a good success rate: the health issue was resolved in the first visit 83 percent of the time. Telemedicine options are well-suited for common ailments. Sinusitis, colds, flus, pertussis and urinary tract infections were the most common diagnoses made. 

Another study found that employees are ready to embrace telemedicine options. An Accenture survey revealed that three out of four respondents want virtual care options—but only one out of five currently have access.

For employers looking to cut costs and increase employee satisfaction, telemedicine offers a unique opportunity.

If your company isn’t offering virtual care yet, there are several steps you can take to rectify the situation.

  • Check with your insurance carrier. Insurers like the cost-effectiveness of telemedicine, too, and many have been adding the services in recent years. See if your insurer has added virtual care options, and how your company can gain access to them.
  • Consider a standalone option. If your insurer does not provide telemedicine benefits yet, you can find a telemedicine provider on your own. Healthline has a list of 17 telemedicine companies here. The services offered vary by provider, so look at the options carefully to find a good match for your company. Some telemedicine providers, such as Teladoc, also offer mental health services.
  • Educate employees. If employees are unaware of the telemedicine benefits available to them, the benefits will go unused—leading to a poor return on investment. When you add virtual care benefits, advertise the fact extensively and offer demonstrations to show how easy it is to access virtual care services.

Also, make sure employees understand the advantages. Although studies show that many consumers want virtual care options, some individuals may be reluctant to make the change. Demonstrate the convenience, and explain which illnesses are particularly well-suited for telemedicine.

As always, Higginbotham is your employee benefits partner. Ask us about adding virtual care options to your plan.


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