Healthcare costs for employers are expected to rise nearly 6.5 percent in 2018, according to a study by PwC's Health Research Institute. As such, employers everywhere have tried to reduce their costs through different means, including offering employees high deductible plans and cutting back on other health-related benefits.
High deductible plans save employers money and give employees more back in their paycheck but aren't as comprehensive when it comes to paying for major medical expenses. If you struggle with providing your team with comprehensive health coverage, telehealth or telemedicine is an avenue to supplement basic coverage and support their well-being.
Telemedicine connects patients with doctors through a phone call, video chat (or text chats), on the computer, or a mobile app. Doctors are readily available and can help with a wide range of minor health issues. Depending on which state they're practicing in, they can prescribe non-narcotic medication to patients through the platform, such as antibiotics. A number of platforms also have mental health providers for therapy and substance abuse help as well as dermatology professionals. [Read related article from our sister site, Business.com: Best Telemedicine Software]
Fortunately, many health plans already offer an added telemedicine feature. Insurance companies generally encourage the use of telemedicine because it also reduces costs for them. Even if your plan doesn't include telemedicine, you should consider adding it to your benefits package.
Benefits of telemedicine
- Cost Savings: Urgent care or emergency room visits are expensive and often unnecessary if individuals have quick access to a doctor who can diagnosis minor issues. Typical costs for a trip to the emergency room can range from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the issue and treatment. Urgent care visits are significantly less costly but are still more expensive than a telemedicine appointment, which costs about $100 per visit.
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- Time savings: Telemedicine visits are big time-savers. Many platforms can connect patients to a doctor fast, sometimes within minutes of submitting your request. Being able to speak with a physician so quickly not only saves patients from having to schedule appointments weeks ahead, they don't have to schedule time off from work. Further, the sooner a patient consults with a doctor, the faster they can get a diagnosis and, in some cases, prevent certain types of illnesses before they worsen, saving both time and money for you and your employee.
- More choices: Depending on your location, the availability of doctors, and the limits of your insurance network, you and your employees may not have an ample selection of healthcare professionals. Telemedicine platforms give you access to dozens of experts who are part of the service. It's especially beneficial for those who live in rural communities who, in addition to taking time off from work, must travel further to get the care they need.
- Private issues: Another added benefit to telemedicine is that it may be more comfortable for patients to speak with a healthcare provider about sensitive, private issues. For individuals seeking counseling, it can be intimidating to seek help in-person, whereas with telemedicine, the patient is more in control of the conversation and can use instant messaging to talk with a professional.
Before you sign up
A telemedicine doctor is not a replacement for a patient's primary care physician. Virtual doctors are equipped to handle minor issues only, such as allergies, cold, fever, pink eye, sinusitis, sore throat, among other minor conditions.
If a telemedicine doctor can't confidently diagnose a patient's condition, they will likely recommend the patient see their primary care doctor or visit urgent care. This can be more expensive, but anytime an individual thinks their illness is more than a minor issue, they should seek an in-person consultation with a healthcare provider.
Telemedicine works best when it's used as a preventative measure against serious illness; therefore, encourage your staff to use it as such and stay health-conscious, especially if your health plan isn't as comprehensive as you'd like.