With cold season in it’s prime, I’ve been working with many of my clients recently to find ways to reduce the impact on both the business and employees. Options that will decrease the need for employees to see their primary care physician for simple issues like sore throats, allergies, flu, etc. How about you, are you looking for a tool that will provide your employees the health care they need that is cost-effective? Have you ever considered telemedicine? Telemedicine can play a role in changing the way we seek and obtain medical advice, diagnoses and prescriptions.
What is Telemedicine?
The American Telemedicine Association defines it as the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another using various applications and services such as video, email, smart phones, or other forms of telecommunications technology. Keep in mind, when more serious health conditions occur, employees still need to seek more involved medical attention.
Telemedicine in the Workplace
Workplace telemedicine is a slowly growing trend and is capturing the attention of many employers. As health care costs continue to rise, employers are looking for alternatives to providing their employees with lower health care costs and quality coverage. A U.S. News & World Report article stated that, “more than 36 million Americans have used telemedicine in some way, and as many as 70 percent of doctor visits can be handled over the phone, according to a recent study by the Affiliated Workers Association.” Technological advances are helping to bring telemedicine to the forefront as an option for reducing healthcare costs.
The Benefits of Utilizing Telemedicine in the Workplace
Here are six advantages of utilizing Telemedicine in the workplace:
- Can contain healthcare costs by providing Telemedicine as part of the overall group health care plan.
- Helps reduce office co-pays for employees and claim costs to the employer’s group healthcare plan.
- Can minimize employee time away from the job and works with the employee’s time schedule.
- Provides your employees instant access to medical care while reducing wait time in the doctor’s office.
- Locations that have a physician shortage, telemedicine can provide easier access to care.
- Access to telemedicine doctors is generally available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, reducing the amount of emergency visits, which can reduce employer’s rising healthcare costs.
Who’s Eligible for Telemedicine
It’s important to note that all workers in an organization can benefit from using Telemedicine, including both employees who qualify for group health insurance and those who do not. Typically telemedicine programs can be bundled into your group medical insurance coverage or offered as a voluntary benefit. This voluntary benefit can be offered to your part-time or seasonal employees.
How to Offer Telemedicine Services
Companies offering telemedicine services can be handled through a direct contract with such vendors as TeleDoc or AmeriDoc. Another option would be to access service through a discount medical plan organization (DMPO) that combines several health serious for companies and administers the plans nationwide such as Careington International Corporation.
The Cost of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is relatively inexpensive and becoming increasingly more available. According to analysis by Towers Watson, telemedicine could potentially deliver more than $6 billion a year in health care savings to U.S. companies. “In order to achieve this level of savings, it would require all employees and their dependents to use the technology-enabled interactions available today in place of face-to-face visits to the doctor, urgent care center or emergency room (for appropriate medical problems).” However, the biggest obstacles right now are legal and regulatory issues especially at the state level, privacy and security concerns, and lack of physician buy-in. The good news is state medical boards are adopting policy guidelines for the safe practice of telemedicine.
When considering a telemedicine vendor for your organization, team with Human Resources partner to help design a strong employee education and communication campaign on the benefits of using this service. This will ensure a successful implementation and better utilization of the program, which positions the organization to attain the benefits of telemedicine by reducing their health care costs.