If you’ve ever experienced a non-emergency illness, you probably faced these three options:
- Wait 24 hours for your primary doctor to fit you in
- Visit the local urgent care
- Or make a trip to the emergency room
You also likely had to wait 20-60 minutes in whichever waiting room you chose, only to spend about 8 minutes with a doctor. Factor in driving time and you’ve spent about 2 hours away from work for what was probably a common medical condition.
Imagine if you could offer your employees convenient access to quality health care that saves time and money. Thanks to the advances in science and technology, you can offer that exact benefit to your employees through telemedicine services.
What is Telemedicine?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) refers to telehealth as “the use of telecommunications and information technologies to share information and provide clinical care, education, public health and administrative services at a distance.” More specifically, telemedicine refers to remote clinical services and telecommunications between providers and patients. These communications may be made in several ways including by phone, e-mail or video.
Telemedicine specializes in treating non-emergency conditions such as cold & flu, allergies, infections and rashes. Virtual providers can prescribe medications for these conditions which can be filled at the employee’s pharmacy of choice. Although beneficial and convenient, telemedicine is not a replacement for health insurance and does not eliminate the need for the healthcare system.
What are the Advantages?
Telemedicine offers convenient 24/7 access to health care providers and practically eliminates time away from work. Telemedicine services may also be extended to employees’ immediate household family members, which is ideal for working parents with little time to take their children (or themselves) to the doctor’s office.
Employees can communicate with providers regardless of their location, which is especially convenient for employees who travel outside of the office. This also benefits employees who have traveled outside of their network, or if it is outside of normal business hours, which typically results in a costly visit to the emergency room.
Most virtual platforms allow employers to choose whether to pay a small per employee fee (typically $5 per employee per month) or pass the cost on to the employee through a payroll deduction. Employees will save on healthcare costs because the co-pays usually mirror the primary care rate, or are waived based on the plan design.
Telemedicine is a great add-on to your existing employee health plan. It is a cost neutral benefit offset by the savings from rerouting employees from a visit to the emergency room for non-emergency conditions. You’ll also have happier, more engaged employees by offering a benefit that saves them time, money and frustration.
Keep in mind that telemedicine is only effective if employees utilize the services, so it is important to garner employee buy in. To find out more, ask your broker or TPA what telemedicine options are available in your area.