Why is Telemedicine just as advantageous and cost-effective for employers as it is for employees?
Telemedicine, virtual office visits, telehealth, doctor facetime, etc.—you may recognize one of these terms, which all represent the growing trend in the healthcare and insurance industry. Telemedicine simply means remote access to board-certified doctors from your phone or online, anytime.
Technology is integral to the way we communicate, interact, and operate a business. Technology has had and will continue to have, enormous implications in the medical industry by improving and advancing the performance of physicians and medical specialists in their ability to diagnose and treat patients. Just think of the tools used to gather medical data, analyze data, and perform medical care and procedures by doctors today. Now, with telemedicine, the delivery of this medical care is also facilitated by technology.
Telemedicine boosts an employee’s total compensation and adds value to an employer’s benefits program by saving money, reducing employees’ use of sick time, and promoting healthy financial consumerism when employees’ use their low-cost telemedicine alternative.
There are numerous telemedicine providers and variations of plans; however, generally, they all include remote teleconferencing, with board-certified physicians, 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, 365 days-a-year. Upon requesting a virtual doctor visit, individuals are usually connected in fewer than ten minutes to a doctor who can treat conditions such as allergies, bronchitis, flu, infections, pharyngitis, conjunctivitis, sinusitis, sprains, UTIs, and vomiting. Although this is not an exhaustive list, one can certainly see the multiple medical conditions that can be treated without the patient ever having to leave their home or office and in a shorter amount of time.
"When employees use the telemedicine benefit for routine medical conditions, it is estimated to save the employer up to $717"
Bethany Schenk, Founder and CEO of Web Benefits Design and healthcare benefits and technology expert, says she offers telemedicine coverage to all of her employees. Why? “One—I care about them. Two—they have important jobs; I need them here at work. Three—it is more convenient for my employees and more cost-effective for both my employees and me as the employer.”
Schenk, like many employers who offer a telemedicine benefit to their employees, is finding telemedicine offers unique opportunities for cost savings for both the employee and employer.
For instance, employees with children may have experienced a $400 Emergency Room visit and a long wait time when having to take their child to the ER for an earache. A virtual office visit will cost them nothing, and they will be connected to a physician within minutes of requesting a consult. Likewise, when employees use the telemedicine benefit for routine medical conditions, it is estimated to save the employer up to $717. This cost-savings adds up quickly, and employers see an ROI immediately when offering and promoting their telemedicine benefit.
That said, employees will not use what they are not aware of or understand. There are proven effective methods to driving employee participation and utilization of their telemedicine benefit.
Printed communications and paper enrollment are a thing of the past as employers shift to online enrollment and robust benefits administration solutions. Just as technology scaffolds telemedicine, it also supports employees’ knowledge of their benefits and enrollment. An integrated benefits administration system requires employees to interact with each benefit through an intuitive, step-by-step online enrollment process. Employers can highlight the telemedicine benefit with comprehendible benefit summaries, unique target messaging, and downloadable documents should the employee want to print out the provider guide. Employees are more engaged with their benefit opportunities when having to confirm each step of their enrollment and learn to appreciate what their employer offers. Benefits administration technology empowers employers to promote their benefit products and facilitates employee awareness, education, and participation.
In addition to online enrollment, HR professionals and benefits managers can send batch emails to their entire workforce communicating events and information such as enrollment dates, how to enroll, and the benefits package. Showcasing the telemedicine benefit with specific product emails increases employees’ awareness of the benefit and understanding of how it functions. Employers can customize workflows in their benefits administration system and efficiently deliver correspondence, as well as uniquely send ongoing messages that maintain employee engagement and increase product knowledge.
To truly gain an ROI, employees must use the telemedicine benefit, and in order to do this, employees must have the time and private space to perform the virtual doctor visit. Outside of work, this is not a problem; however, what happens when employees are at work and require a medical consult? Many of the patient complaints that telemedicine doctors diagnose and treat are non-contagious and will not hinder an employee from working. Employers find that by allowing employees to perform telemedicine consults while at work, more employees will use the benefit, both at home and in the office, which reduces employee sick time and fuels healthy financial consumerism. Even allowing a private space for employees to perform the short virtual office visit creates a comfortable environment for employees and encourages utilization.
The healthcare industry has undergone vast changes within just the year alone, and telemedicine is quickly becoming the “next best thing,” in the healthcare and insurance industry as it affords both the employee and employer dramatic financial and medical advantages. As technology continues to advance, telemedicine will continue to revolutionize the way medical care is accessed and delivered. One aspect of telemedicine that will not change is that it is a must-have in any employee benefits program.